Monday, January 14, 2008

Toyota Will Offer a Plug-In Hybrid by 2010

The Toyota Motor Corporation, which leads the world’s automakers in sales of hybrid-electric vehicles, announced Sunday night that it would build its first plug-in hybrid by 2010.

This plug-in hybrid — a version of the Prius, and not the vehicle Toyota announced it would build — differs from the Prius in four ways. It has two nickel-metal hydride batteries under the floor of its trunk, instead the conventional Prius’s single battery.

Unlike the Prius, which has a single fuel-filler door on the left side of the car, the plug-in model has another door on the right hand side that opens to reveal an outlet for the electrical charger. One end of the charger looks like a small fuel nozzle; the other end is a conventional three-pronged plug.

Each charge, which takes about four hours, uses the equivalent of 2.7 kilowatt hours of electricity, said Jaycie Chitwood, a senior strategic planner in Toyota’s advanced technologies group.

But it cannot go very far: the plug-in hybrid’s two batteries hold enough power for only seven miles, said Saúl Ibarra, a product specialist with Toyota who worked on developing the Prius.

By contrast, G.M. claims that the Volt will be able to hold a charge equal to 40 miles, after a six-hour charge.

Inside the car, there is a button with the letters “EV” inside an outline of a car. If the driver pushes the button, the car reverts to electric vehicle mode, meaning the Prius is powered completely by its two batteries.

The plug-in Prius can stay in electric mode until 62 miles per hour, versus around 30 miles per hour for the conventional Prius, Mr. Ibarra said.
This is good news that Toyota is taking the plunge and releasing a plug-in hybrid. I am a bit disappointed though that they aren't using lithium ion batteries and the greater range they enable.

7 miles of all electric range hardly seems like it is worth the effort. If you plugged it in each night and took full advantage of the range, over a week you would be able to travel 49 miles in a week, which is about how far you could travel on a gallon of gasoline in a Prius. Over a year you could travel 2,500 miles on electricity saving 52 gallons. If you drove 15,000 miles a year, then 1/6 of your total driving would be powered by electricity. While this savings is not nothing, it seems like a limited impact for as much work as it requires.
In electric mode, the Prius gets 99.9 miles a gallon, according to a gauge on a screen in the middle of the dashboard.
Sometimes you wonder who is editing these articles. Umm, don't you think that this might be because the gauge tops out at 99.9? If you aren't using any gasoline then wouldn't it be getting an infinite number of miles to the gallon?

via NY Times

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