Toyota Plugs In
On reflection, one might view the official media preview of Toyota's plug-in Prius PHV as somewhat anti-climatic. Everyone pretty much knew what the car would look like -- the current model -- and what its performance was likely to be; after all, there'd been scores of test vehicles on the road for months now. We even had a pretty good inkling of its price. There were, in fact, few real surprises awaiting the assembled media gathered in the Craneway Pavilion, along with the bevy of civilian Prius owner-experts who moderate the Priuschat.com forum.
None of that, however, diminished the excitement of seeing Toyota join the electric vehicle parade with General Motors and Nissan.
The key difference between the standard "liftback" Prius and the PHV model that was the many focus of the event held on September 16, 2011 in Richmond, California, apart from the price that is, is the plug-in model's ability to run up to 15 miles as an electric car, after which the Hybrid Synergy Drive takes over. That's 15 percent better than the earlier demonstrators. In EV Mode, Toyota's estimates it delivers the equivalent of 89 miles per gallon. In hybrid mode that drops back to a still Volt-beating 49 mpg average. Recharge time at 115V takes just 3 hours, less than that with the new Leviton Level II charger that will be available for a starting price of $999 installed.
Pricing on the PHV model is $32,000 for the base model and $39,525 for the top-of-the line "Advanced" model with all the "bells and whistles," which puts it within a few hundred dollars of the base version of the Chevrolet Volt, its nearest competitor that offers up to 50 miles of EV driving range.
Toyota's Corporate Manager of Car and Van Marketing, Rick LoFaso isn't troubled by that, pointing out that what potential Volt buyers give up in EV range, they more than make up for in amenities and better hybrid fuel economy… at least for now. The PHV's smaller 4.4 lithium battery pack qualifies for the minimum federal tax credit of $2,500, as opposed to the Volt's $7,500. So, it will be interesting to see how the two compare in side-by-side sales.
After the product briefing conducted by Toyota University's David Lee, the media and invited Prius owners where given the opportunity to drive the PHV, as well as the slightly restyled 'liftback' Prius, the new Prius V, the Highlander Hybrid, and the new Camry Hybrid, which has been completely restyled and given some seriously 'kick ass' acceleration, along with what Toyota claims is 43 mpg fuel economy. If there was a surprise at the event, it had to be the Camry Hybrid.
In this video Division Group vice president and general manager Bob Carter announces the launch next March 2012 of the Prius PHV and the start of series production on the RAV4 EV later this year. Unfortunately, it wasn't yet available to drive. When it is, I hope that Toyota invites EV World back for that event as well.
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