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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