Toyota made their North American debut for the 2010 Prius Plugin Hybrid Vehicle (PHV) today at the 2009 LA Auto Show. There have been a lot of people waiting for this car, proven by the numerous aftermarket kits made to covert the standard Prius into a Plugin.
Why, you ask? Well, it seems people who convert their Prius into the plugin version of the car wind up getting somewhere around 150 mpg, sometimes more; well over the Prius’ EPA rating of 51 mpg. Sounds like a good enough reason to me. Of course, this is a somewhat misleading number, given you can’t really rate these cars the same way the EPA rates most gasoline-powered autos.
So now that Toyota finally has all the kinks worked out of their plug-in system (hopefully,) let’s see what they have to show…
The first thing that confused most people about the plug-in systems is exactly how they work. We all know how a “regular” gas-electric hybrid works: electric only modes at very low speeds, gas engine comes on a lot to recharge the batteries, and they’re most useful in city traffic.
The Prius PHV, on the other hand, will be able to operate at speeds up to 60 mph in electric-only mode, but can only go about 13 miles before the gas engine kicks on. Good for short commutes or quick jaunts to the grocery store, basically. After that range is up, it acts like a regular Prius again. That’s still better, but finds limited incentive for most consumers to upgrade.
Later this month, Toyota will be sending out 350 Prius PHVs with data tracking devices to Europe and Japan for a sort of test run, then 150 will be sent here to the States early next year to a limited area. Basically it’s a first step trial run of the car, which will give Toyota a better idea of how the cars will be used so they can apply their findings to the next batch they send out, and so on.
It will be interesting to see where this goes from here, and although I completely understand the technical limitations involved with something like this, it surprises me Toyota isn’t further ahead on this, given the success of the Prius.
Check out PriusPHV.com to read more detail, get pictures, and watch videos about the new Prius.