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.

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Mark Tisshaw

Title: Editor

Mark is a journalist with more than a decade of top-level experience in the automotive industry. He first joined Autocar in 2009, having previously worked in local newspapers. He has held several roles at Autocar, including news editor, deputy editor, digital editor and his current position of editor, one he has held since 2017.

From this position he oversees all of Autocar’s content across the print magazine, website, social media, video, and podcast channels, as well as our recent launch, Autocar Business. Mark regularly interviews the very top global executives in the automotive industry, telling their stories and holding them to account, meeting them at shows and events around the world.

Mark is a Car of the Year juror, a prestigious annual award that Autocar is one of the main sponsors of. He has made media appearances on the likes of the BBC, and contributed to titles including What Car?Move Electric and Pistonheads, and has written a column for The Sun.

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Gedcrouch 21 January 2013


The Prius certainly seems to divide opinions very strongly. I can only report that I ran BMW 5 series diesels and a Mercedes S class diesel before I bought my Prius 6 years ago so I had experience of both sides. The Prius has been the most reliable car that I've ever owned and the cheapest to run by a long way. I'm still on the original battery and exhaust, servicing averages about £150 every 10,000 mile, the tyres last for ever and the Road Tax is negligible. Living with the car is very easy and the fuel consumption is the icing on the cake. I never came out of the BMW or Mercedes garage with a bill less than £300-400 and reliability was average to awful. The Prius has made me realise that car ownership really can be stress free. I'm just about to buy a Plug-in and can't wait to have another 6 years + of Prius ownership.

Cobh 12 April 2012

Re: Toyota Prius plug-in - prices and specs

Probably Toyota UK have decided that the market for vehicles exempt from the congestion charge is not price-sensitive. Bankers et al get a triple whammy: 1) something sort-of positive image-wise; 2) no doubt there's a tax fiddle to deploy; 3) they'd rather like them to be even more expensive. 3 just goes to show that even with a big fat bonus you can't have everything:)

mrcliodCi 11 April 2012

Re: Toyota Prius plug-in

Peanus wrote:

..Wonders what the 12 Miles will drop to in the midst of our recent feezing winters.....