Alternative Fuels Australia

Plug-in Prius shows off in Tokyo

Posted by Car Geek on October 25, 2007

The Toyota Prius is Australia’s most popular hybrid, a story that seems to repeat itself the world over, so it’s no surprise that some attention is being paid to its next iteration. Although official announcements have been scarce, all information currently points to the next-generation Prius having “plug-in” capability, which will allow it to travel in all-electric mode (that’s zero litres per hundred kilometres) by charging it at home using a standard power outlet.

Plug-in Prius, image courtesy Popular Mechanics.

Popular Mechanics was lucky enough to take Toyota’s prototype for a test run during the Tokyo Motor Show currently underway. While the model they tested looks like a stock Prius on the outside, Toyota engineers beefed up the battery pack to hold more charge, similar in capacity to what the production model is expected to have. The plug-in hybrid (or PHEV) version has a range of about 7 miles (10 km) in all-electric mode using the enhanced nickel-metal hydride battery pack, and can reach 62 mph (about 100 km/h) without using a drop of fuel. The battery takes about 3-4 hours to charge on a 110V outlet, which would drop to half that on Australia’s 240V outlets.

Toyota remains coy about their plans for the battery technology they’ll use inside the next-generation Prius. The prototype model uses two of the NiMH battery packs used in the current hybrid vehicle, which takes their weight up to about 100kg. Lithium-based batteries are considerably lighter and have better qualities for automotive applications, but Toyota is taking a cautious approach with the Lithium Ion technology, given its expense and the tendency of some forms to encounter “thermal runaway” events. At the moment, it seems likely that Toyota will release the new Prius with a boosted NiMH battery first, then release a Lithium-Ion version when it feels the technology is ready.

So when are we likely to see it? The new version is expected to be released in 2009, and an eventual release in Australia is inevitable given the success of the current model, but when it will arrive in local showrooms is anyone’s guess. It’s likely to depend largely on how fast they can ramp up production to meet the larger Japanese and American markets. Who knows, maybe this new evolution of the Hybrid Synergy Drive technology might even find its way into Toyota’s local hybrid foray.

(Source: Popular Mechanics)


2 Responses to “Plug-in Prius shows off in Tokyo”

  1. Ted said

    Its too bad Toyota doesn’t see that Ener1 (ENEI-ob) in the USA is about to unveil it’s completed and tested Hybrid battery. They claim it is the safest LI-ION in the world.

  2. Nathan said

    “They claim” being the operative phrase there, I think. Major auto manufacturers aren’t going to jump on board the likes of EnerDel until their product has been proven on a large scale. They’ve got too much to lose if it doesn’t live up to expectations.

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