Toyota rolls out its plug-in Prius

by Hiroko Nakata

Toyota Motor Corp. unveiled on Monday the plug-in version of the latest Prius gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle with extended range when it runs on electricity.

Toyota plans to lease out 600 of the plug-in hybrids to governments and corporations in Japan, the United States and Europe and gain feedback.

It says it will start selling the plug-in hybrid at home and abroad in two years.

The five-seater has a gasoline-powered internal combustion engine and an electric motor. Increased capacity of the lithium-ion batteries gives it a longer electric-motor-only cruising range. Its plug also allows users to charge the batteries using household electricity.

“A plug-in hybrid vehicle eases concerns about electric vehicles because it includes the hybrid system,” said Takeshi Uchiyamada, executive vice president at Toyota.

The Prius Plug-in Hybrid has a cruising range using only electricity of 23.5 km under Japanese standards. Its fuel-efficiency in hybrid mode is 57 km per liter, the carmaker said.

By using a 100-volt socket, it takes three hours to fully charge the battery. With a 200-volt socket, it takes 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Toyota will lease 230 of the vehicles domestically to local governments, ministries and companies, including electric power utilities.