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Plug-in model is the cleanest, most efficient Prius yet

Our Verdict

Fourth-generation Toyota Prius

World’s most popular hybrid is reborn to face stiffening competition

  • First Drive

    2016 Toyota Prius review

    Now in its fourth generation, Toyota's original hybrid is radically different underneath, greener than ever and slightly more pleasant to drive
  • First Drive

    Toyota Prius plug-in

    Plug-in model is the cleanest, most efficient Prius yet

What is it?

The most efficient and economical Prius yet. The plug-in hybrid version of the all-conquering Toyota Prius may look like any other Prius, but there are some crucial differences.

The nickel-metal hydride batteries of the standard model have been replaced with lithium-ion batteries; these offer greater power density and can be recharged quicker.

New York motorshow update: The covers are finally pulled off the second generation Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid

This larger, more powerful battery pack offers a superior electric range and the Prius is capable of traveling up to 12.5 miles on electric power only at speeds of up to 62mph. It can also be plugged into the mains and recharged in around an hour and a half.

This extended electric range helps the plug-in Prius to record combined fuel economy of 108.6mpg and CO2 emissions of 59g/km.

What’s it like?

The best Prius yet. All the benefits of the standard model are there, yet with subtle improvements. The EV mode in the standard Prius is gimmicky, offering less than two miles of power at speeds less than 30mph.

That’s not the case with the plug-in model. The 12.5 miles range is usable: on our test route around central London, the Prius never once needed to switch to petrol power and the available charge didn’t deplete even with ancillaries like the air-con and radio on.

The power delivery is smooth and step-off is brisk. Around town it’s quick and nimble to keep up with traffic and you never feel limited by the fact you’re only using electric power.

If you run out of electric power, fear not. The 1.8-litre petrol engine remains untouched from the standard Prius, meaning journeys are never limited or tainted by range anxiety. The transition from electric power to petrol power is just as smooth as the standard Prius.

Should I buy one?

It may look and drive like it's production ready, but you won’t be able to buy one from your Toyota dealer for at least another two years.

That’s because Toyota is trialing 600 units around the world to test plug-in hybrid technology and how people react to it. After all, there aren’t any such cars on the market yet.

But what we have is the next-generation of the Prius, a car with proven technology that’s also reliable. The plug-in Prius moves that on further; the EV range is useful, offering many of the benefits of electric cars only in familiar packaging and with no range anxiety attached.

Downsides? It’s likely to be expensive. Lithium-ion batteries are much more expensive than their nickel-metal hydride counterparts and Toyota won’t produce the lithium-ion battery packs in high enough volume to significantly drive the cost down.

Come the fourth-generation Prius before the end of the decade, we expect this to be the default choice for Prius buyers given the likely reduction in cost of the technology and further performance benefits.

And as a future mode of transport that allows for zero-emission town driving yet still with the ability to drive hundreds of miles on a tank of fuel, it’s perhaps the most viable solution yet.

See all the latest Toyota reviews, news and video

Join the debate

Comments
29

14 December 2009

So, how far did you find you could travel on one full charge in mixed use? Did you reach 62mph in electric mode, or is that overstated? What is acceleration like in electric only?

This is more of a news item rather than a "first drive".

14 December 2009

"This is more of a news item rather than a "first drive".

Hardly "news" given the test date - more a run-up-to-Christmas filler

14 December 2009

I dont think this model has lithium ion batteries yet. These can store nearly 3x as much energy as Ni mH so a better model is likely to come. Li -on batteries are amazingly expensive though so maybe production models will be leased.

Whatever Toyota is leading the way in alternative means of propulsion in my mind.

14 December 2009

This must be the way forward, a simple easy way to charge-up the batteries for 70% of journeys combined with a good economical method of travelling longer distances. Toyota are the obvious leaders in this, lets hope this model gets to market sooner rather than later.


Enjoying a Fabia VRs - affordable performance

14 December 2009

Toyota ARE NOT the leader in hybrid technology...if you class Hybrid Tech. to also include range extenders then GM lead the world - without question.

Put it a different way, who leads the world in battery/ICE technology - GM DO (Toyota do not, nor Honda)

GM are the leaders and the Chevy Volt makes the Prius look like Hummer - and we all know what happened to hummer!

Toyota do not even lead the world in battery tech; the Prius only goes 12 and a miles on battery power; if you support the Pruis, then you must also support the Chevy Volt.

Me i know the Prius to be a blag, the real technology battery/ICE is GMs! go GM and it will be interesting to see how many of those that support the Prius for what it is also support the Volt which is lots (fact) better and out very shortly.

If no one then supports the Volt then you are basically not thinking of the environment.

Also in terms of hybrid, Ford beats (yes BEATS) Toyota....thus in this sense its Ford that is leading the Hybrid Tech; but Ford has sense and is using it in SUV in the USA and large cars in the USA; Ford leads Toyota....Honda beat Toyota and thus Toyota (if its lucky) is in fourth place.

14 December 2009

[quote Autocar]Until now, the Prius hasn’t had a ‘plug-in’ facility to allow its battery to be charged at home for short, electric-only journeys. That’s the main appeal of GM’s forthcoming Volt and Ampera models, so it’s no surprise that Toyota has moved to cover them with a modified version of the existing Prius.[/quote]

- this isn't a Volt clone. there is a basic difference.

the Volt is permanently electric motor driven, with the petrol engine acting only as an on-board generator to juice the batteries - serial hybrid - like the TopGear lash-up thing.

the plug-in Prius is the same as the existing Prius - a parallel hybrid - where the car can be propelled by the (now slightly larger)battery alone, or/and the petrol engine when the battery is depleting/max. performance is requested.

both cars are ultimately a gimmick as in real life most users will fill up with petrol to 'range extend', rather than go through the hassle of a downtime of a min. of 90 mins., several hours with the larger capacity battery Volt.

you do see and understand the difference Mr Cropley?

14 December 2009

[quote Widescreen]Toyota ARE NOT the leader in hybrid technology...if you class Hybrid Tech. to also include range extenders then GM lead the world - without question.[/quote]

I can buy a Prius. Where can I buy a Volt? Toyota were first to market, that makes them leaders, for the time being.

14 December 2009

[quote Widescreen]Toyota ARE NOT the leader in hybrid technology...if you class Hybrid Tech. to also include range extenders then GM lead the world - without question[/quote] Such arrant nonsense does nothing to further your case. Tell me where I can buy a Volt from your so-called leader GM and I might be inclined to take more notice of your views. Just continuously asserting that your opinions are "(fact)" does not make them any more accurate or true. GM and Ford are light-years behind companies like Toyota and Honda and have had over a million hybrids in the hands of customers for in daily use for years (Fact)!! Get real or don't bother to post here, please.


Enjoying a Fabia VRs - affordable performance

14 December 2009

Fact . If I want reliability I would buy a Toyota. Doubtless millions of others do this . See JD power surveys on reliability and you will not see any Fords or GM products at the top.

Fact . The Chevy volt has yet to reach production

Fact. Ford does not produce any hybrids for sale in the EU.

So how are Ford and Chevy ahead of Toyota ? If you want more economical cars in the US get real and downsize like the rest of us.

14 December 2009

Agreed, very little info here at all!

The Plug In Prius does use a Lithium Ion battery. It's not only has a much larger capacity (i.e. electric only up from 2 miles to 12) but also allows faster discharge / recharge which allows greater electric only acceleration, cruise and greater regeneration when braking.

The issue of the battery size is really about cost. Toyota could have offerred a 40 mile range as the Volt intends too, but they believe the cost / benefits of this in the real world are not viable. Hence the reason they are doing all these real world tests for 2 years (in 2010/2011) before the model hopefully enters production in 2012.

Toyota press release here - http://www2.toyota.co.jp/en/news/09/12/1214.html

Video here - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zh6cbSNB3KA

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