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Toyota Plug-in Concept Debuting in Detroit

Will accompany debut of Prius c.

by on Dec.20, 2011

Toyota offers a tease of a new plug-in hybrid model debuting at the Detroit Auto Showw next month.

Toyota will pull the wraps off an advanced plug-in concept vehicle during next month’s Detroit auto show – along with the production version of the maker’s new Prius c hybrid.

The Japanese giant isn’t saying much about the advanced plug-in but it is expected to offer significant technological improvements over Toyota’s first plug-in, a version of the conventional Prius hybrid that is just going on sale in the U.S. market.

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The Prius c, meanwhile, is set to become the newest – and smallest – member of an expanding “family” of gas-electric models sharing the Prius badge.  Both vehicles debuting in Detroit will be part of a push by Toyota to prove it remains a leader in the emerging market for “green”vehicles.

The new Toyota Prius c will return to the Detroit Auto Show in production trim.

While it was one of the pioneers in the conventional hybrid segment, Toyota was slow to embrace more advanced lithium-based technologies, falling behind General Motors and Nissan – with their Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid and Leaf battery-electric vehicle, or BEV, respectively.

Toyota is racing to catch up and has announced a number of advanced battery vehicle programs, including a BEV version of the RAV-4 and a plug-in version of the original hybrid.  The latter model is significantly limited in functionality, however, offering barely a third of the electric-only range of the Chevy Volt, for example, and being limited to running on battery power at speeds of no more than 62 mph.

Industry insiders suspect that the plug-in hybrid Toyota will reveal at the upcoming North American International Auto Show, in Detroit, will offer both greater range and the ability to operate at highway speeds in electric mode.

Whether it will also bear the Prius name remains to be seen, but a year ago Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda introduced the first members of the new Prius brand-within-a-brand at the Detroit Auto Show, including the up-sized Prius v and a concept for a smaller hybrid called Prius c.

That downsized battery model will return to Detroit in production form next month.  It will be sized closer to a Toyota Yaris than the compact to midsize original Prius, and should deliver a starting price at or below $20,000.

Meanwhile, Toyota this week revealed it will boost prices on the original hybrid model by as much as 4.3%.  That means even the stripped-down Prius One will now cost $22,120, with the top-line Prius Five carrying a sticker of $29,805.

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