Toyota Finally Succumbs to Plug-In Hybrid Desire
Or at least, succumbs to consumer desire for plug-ins…
By Brendan Moore
Toyota announced yesterday that it would offer a plug-in hybrid version of its Prius on a lease basis this winter and would offer the same car for sale in the next two years. The company said only 150 of the plug-ins would be offered under lease terms in the next few months, but that “tens of thousands” would be offered for sale in the next 24-month time period.
It has to be said that Toyota officials are not exactly ecstatic over the fact that they will be offering a plug-in hybrid. For years, Toyota has been lukewarm to the whole idea of plug-ins, claiming that it just doesn’t make much sense to add so much extra weight to a car and to take up so much space in a car in order to make it travel for a very short distance on electric power. Toyota executives have always felt that the market for such a vehicle will be limited as a result of the compromises inherent in the car.
One gets the distinct and palpable feeling that their support for the plug-in hybrid is grudging and is predicated more by the public’s desire for the vehicles more than any internal enthusiasm they have for it. But, with GM and Ford both planning launches of plug-in hybrids in the near future, and, other companies, most notably Nissan, planning to offer all-electric vehicles for sale next year, Toyota does not wish to be seen as dragging its feet in either a technology or a “green” sense, so it seems they felt as though their choice was made for them.
Toyota is also planning the launch of a short-range electric vehicle (EV) in 2012.
The plug-in Prius that will be available for lease soon is almost identical to the third-generation Prius launched earlier this year. It has the same electric motor and 1.8-liter gasoline engine as the standard Prius, but the plug-in version has lithium ion batteries, as opposed to nickel-metal hydride batteries. This allows higher voltage operation and more energy storage. It also has a recharging port on the left fender. Toyota officials cautioned that the current vehicle may not be the same as the one offered to the wider public in the next couple of years, due to “tweaking” done by engineers as a result of the field trial testing.
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