Driving Toyota's Plug-In Prius
Sam Smith and I spotted our first Prius PHV (plug-in vehicle) between Orange County and San Diego. We were zipping along in the HOV lane when I spotted the car in the far lane. I grabbed my camera and asked Sam to slow down and let me get some photos of it. Until now, I hadn't been sure if Toyota would have any of its demonstration PHVs at the Sustainable Mobility Seminar towards which we were driving last Monday morning, April 12th. This solitary car told me there'd be at least one; turns out, there were many more than that, at least a dozen by my count, and a Toyota engineer told me they had some 25 of the vehicles in the country.
Two things set the PHV model apart from the standard 2010 Prius, externally, that is: the dramatic decals on the side and the charging port door just ahead of the driver's door. Behind that spring-loaded door is a J1772 plug, which connects to three separate battery packs: the main hybrid battery and two sub-battery packs; all of them lithium-ion. While details on the energy capacity of the packs is confidential at the moment, Toyota does state that the car has an EV-mode range of up to 13 miles (20km). They can be charged using either standard American 110V or 220v: the former requiring 3 hours of charge time, the latter half of that.
The car will operate, provided there is sufficient energy available in the batteries, up to 60 mph in EV-mode, however, in normal driving, you'll find that it will, when power requirements demand, shift into blended mode with the 1.8L Atkinson engine supplying extra power, such as when we climbed the hill above the beach front state park just north of La Jolla.
Despite the three batteries, very little cargo room is lost in the back of the car, perhaps a inch or so in height. Like EV World's own converted Prius -- courtesy of Plug-In Conversions Corporation -- adding the batteries means eliminating the spare tire. Toyota provides a leak sealant and battery-run air compressor to be used in the even of a flat tire. The car comfortably seats five, which gives it an advantage over the Chevy Volt, which seats four.
Pricing has not yet be set. Toyota will provide a limited number of the cars to government, non-profit and business enterprises initially, with rotations approximately every two months. Data will be collected wirelessly, collated and made available through a new web site at www.sustainablemobility.com
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