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Toyota Prius Plug-in Model to Get Selectable EV Mode

Japanese maker taking steps to enhance new model’s relatively limited range.

by on Jun.16, 2011

The Toyota Prius Plug-in makes its official debut at the Detroit Auto Show earlier this year.

When Toyota brings the 2012 Prius Plug-in Hybrid to market next year, the vehicle will include several features designed to get the maximum mileage on battery power, including a switch that will let the driver decide when to run in electric vehicle mode and when to operate as a more conventional hybrid.

The maker hopes that will help overcome the limitations of a small lithium-ion battery pack that is expected to deliver only about 13 miles in EV mode, or just over a third of the zero-emissions range of the Chevrolet Volt plug-in that came to market last December.

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Industry analysts have raised questions about the benefits of a plug-in with only 13 miles range, though Toyota Vice President Bob Carter has defended the decision, insisting that is enough for many motorists,  especially since the Japanese maker hints it will price the Prius Plug-in well below the roughly $40,000 –before federal tax credits – Chevy gets for its battery car.  That hefty premium over a similarly-sized Chevrolet Cruze has also drawn criticism and led the General Motors division to lower its price tag by more than $1,000 on the 2012 Volt.

To ensure the Toyota Prius Plug-in meets expectations, the new hybrid will get an EV Mode button not currently available on the regular Prius hybrid – or the Volt.  That will allow a motorist to decide when to use battery power, reports the website

That could be a significant advantage for someone who alternates between highway and local driving.  Higher speeds tend to discharge a battery much more quickly, so a commuter might opt to drive in conventional mode on the freeway, then shift to battery power after exiting.

A report on ConsumerSearch also notes that Toyota plans to modify the regenerative mode on the Prius Plug-in before the new model goes on sale in order to better recapture energy when coasting and braking and using that to further extend the plug-in’s range.

Toyota has been quietly running field tests of the new Prius Plug-in, hoping to isolate problems and fix them before the new model’s official launch.

The extended-range model will be one of several new models to bear the Prius badge as Toyota launches an all-new brand-within-a-brand of dedicated hybrids.  The sub-brand will also include the Prius V, a larger microvan going on sale later this year.  That will be followed by the Prius C, a hybrid smaller than the current Toyota offering.

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