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2010 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid Concept Preview

2010 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid Concept Preview

By Jeff Youngs, December 31, 2009
2010 Toyota Prius Plug-In HybridCritical Knowledge:
  • Based on the 2010 Toyota Prius
  • High-output lithium-ion battery
  • Runs on battery power until discharged, then operates like a traditional hybrid
  • Charges in 90 minutes with a 230-volt electricity supply
  • Range is about 13 miles on battery alone
  • Runs up to 62 mph in electric-only mode
  • Limited prototype lease program of 500 units worldwide in early 2010
Introduction
The Toyota Prius has become the poster child for the "green" movement among U.S. new-car buyers since its introduction in 2001. While Honda, maker of the gas-electric hybrid Insight from 2000-06, might dispute the claim, Toyota proudly states that the Prius was the first mass-produced gas-electric hybrid vehicle available for sale in the United States.

Now in its third generation, last redesigned for the 2010 model year, the production Toyota Prius utilizes the automaker's "Hybrid Synergy Drive" system. The system features a gas-electric hybrid powertrain consisting of a 1.8-liter, 4-cylinder gasoline engine and an 80-horsepower electric motor utilizing nickel-metal hydride batteries. While the production Prius is able to run in "electric-only" mode for brief periods at slow speeds, it primarily relies on its combination gas-electric hybrid system for propulsion and solely on the gasoline powerplant for recharging.

The Toyota Plug-in Hybrid Concept takes the technology one step further. While it retains the original Prius powerplant, the battery pack has been replaced with high-output lithium-ion batteries that can be recharged via common household outlets. The new batteries allow the Plug-in Hybrid Concept to operate on battery power alone for more than a dozen miles-covering most short errands in purely emission- and gasoline-free electric mode.

Before Toyota commits the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid Concept to production, they will run an extensive real-world test through a limited lease program with 500 units in early 2010 (of those, more than 150 will be deployed in Europe). If successful, the automaker will extend the program to the commercial marketplace.

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2010 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid ConceptHardware
Like the production Prius, the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid Concept utilizes both a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder gasoline motor and an 80-horsepower electric motor for propulsion. However, the automaker has chosen to utilize lithium-ion batteries for the first time in a Toyota hybrid vehicle because they have superior performance characteristics when compared to their nickel-metal hydride counterparts. In addition, they are more compact and pack more energy into the same amount of volume. These are important traits when passenger and luggage space is at a premium in an automobile. While the lithium-ion batteries are more expensive to manufacture and produce than their nickel-metal hydride counterparts, they are able to recharge much quicker, making the technology much more attractive to the consumer.

According to the automaker, the battery pack of the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid Concept can be fully recharged in as little as 90 minutes (with a 230-volt charging supply). With a 120-volt electric supply (most household currents), the recharging time is about 3 hours. When fully charged, the range in pure electric mode is about 12 miles-double that of a nickel-metal hydride-powered counterpart. Once the battery power is depleted, the Plug-in Hybrid Concept reverts back to traditional gasoline-electric hybrid operation just like the current Prius model.

Technology
To help drivers maximize the benefits of driving in all-electric mode, the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid Concept features an exclusive Hybrid System Indicator which displays not only vehicle range, but the engine starting point to emphasize efficiency. A special electro multi-vision screen features graphics to display the Plug-in Hybrid's reduction in carbon-monoxide (C02) emissions (a single tree transforms into an entire forest during the charging process). As the vehicle is plugged in to a base station during charging, the electrical HVAC system has been designed to operate via remote control. This allows owners to heat (or cool) their vehicle to their desired temperature before occupancy.

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