17 June 2011

Prius Plug-in Hybrid Review

Photo: Mary Vincent
by Mary Vincent @MaryVincent
Toyota has been a Hybrid Leader for several years now starting with its familiar Prius. In short, the Hybrid Synergy Drive is explained with this practical example: when a driver brakes, the car stores the lost kinetic energy in the battery, and when the driver hits the accelerator the electric motor starts using that stored energy. 

Fast History Facts:
- The world’s best-selling gas-electric hybrid Prius vehicle was introduced in Japan in 1997 and to the United States in 2000
- The second-generation Prius, with a more powerful Hybrid Synergy Drive, became a mid-size family car
- On January 4 2004, the Toyota Prius became the first Toyota vehicle to win the prestigious “North American Car of the Year”
- The Toyota Prius was chosen to replace the 1920s roadster-playing piece in the 2006-updated version of the Monopoly board game as a reflection of modern technology
- The 2011 Prius is the most fuel-efficient hybrid

The early Prius and Hybrid adopters in California (85,000) received Yellow Clean Air Vehicle Stickers enabling Carpool lane travel which will expire July 1, 2011. There is no doubt this Yellow Clean Air Vehicle Sticker program helped enable Hybrid Adoption in addition to Rebate Programs.
The California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE) administers California’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Project funded by the Air Resources Board and offers rebates for eligible zero-emission and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. "The new PHV Prius will qualify for the program, however, the rebate amount has yet to be determined per Mike Ferry the Transportation Program Manager."

Toyota's Hybrid Strategy has evolved into the Prius Plug-in Hybrid, and I test-drove one of the 2010 demonstration vehicles throughout the San Francisco Bay Area last week.

Photo: Mary Vincent
The Prius Plug-in Hybrid has a Lithium-ion battery (vs the older Prius' nickel-metal hydride battery), is charged in approximately three hours on a standard 110-volt electrical outlet or 1.5 hours with a 240V outlet, and is able to run on electricity for approximately 13 miles at speeds of up to 62 mph.  For longer distances, the 4-cylinder PHV goes into hybrid mode and operates as a regular Prius using Hybrid Synergy Drive®, and you could get up to 475 miles on a single tank.
The Engine specs include: Max output [hp (kW)/rpm] 98 (73)/5200
and Max torque (Nm/rpm) 142/4000 and you can effectively get on a short San Francisco Bay Area on-ramp and merge into 65 mile/hr traffic.

Do you have a charging station at work? If so you can charge the car and use less or no gas on the way home. Ask your employers for this benefit if you don't have it yet! 
Note if you're charging outside and have snails, make sure you check the power cord before placing it in your trunk :-)

The suggestions I have for the vehicle are to address the blind spot problems directly behind and at the back sides of the vehicle, and increase the amount of driving time per charge. 
Personally in the San Francisco Bay Area, I can easily drive 50+ miles in a day. Note: the average US driver travels 29 miles per day per the US Department of Transportation Bureau of Transportation StatisticsOther hybrid-electric vehicles can get 30+ miles on one charge, and if I were to invest in a Plug-in Hybrid car, I would prefer the electric charge enabling much more than 13 miles.

The Prius Plug-in Hybrid will be available in the Spring of 2012 in 15 launch states: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington, and availability will open to all other states in 2013. If you're interested in ordering one, you can register Online. The estimated price is $27,000 but Toyota is still generating Prototype data to determine the final price.
I'm looking forward to the Spring 2012 Release, and let me know your feedback if you purchase one.