Toyota Taking Orders for Prius Plug-In

Toyota’s "Prius PHV" plug-in hybrid is about to hit the world’s markets, with deliveries beginning in Japan and Europe on January 30, 2012, and the US in March.

Buyers can place orders now on Toyota’s website. The price is about three million yen ($38,922 at today’s exchange rate) in Japan and starts at $32,000 in the US before a $2500 federal tax credit and further state incentives. 

California buyers will be able to get the coveted AT-PZEV emissions rating, which qualifies it for single driver status in HOV lanes.

In the US, the car will first be available in 14 states: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington. It will be delivered to all states in 2013.

Since inventory will be limited at dealerships, people who want to buy the Prius are advised to order it through the website. If you don’t live in one of the 14 states, you can still buy it and get delivery in one of those states.

Panasonic Corp is supplying the lithium-ion batteries. The company bought out subsidiary Sanyo – a major rechargeable battery manufacturer – as part of its strategy to move toward energy/ environmental technologies rather than consumer electronics.

In Japan, Toyota plans to install charging stations at 5,500 locations using a subcription-based model. And its Toyota Housing Corp. division will sell charging outlets, wall-mounted chargers and pole-type chargers for home use in January 2012.

It will also launch the "H2V Manager," software that optimizes home charging based on the home’s electricity consumption.

Better Than the Prius

The plug-in looks like the standard Prius and drives like one too – it’s just a more advanced version. The only obvious differences are the unique wheels and the "plug-in" medallion on the back.

The PHV runs on electric for trips under 15 miles at a maximum speed of 62-mph, after which it switches to hybrid mode. It’s got a fairly small lithium battery pack, a major change from the hybrid’s nickel-metal hydride pack.

Toyota says it will get a fuel economy rating of 87 mpg equivalent when it runs on electric and about the same as the hybrid when it uses gas, about 49 mpg city/highway.

In comparison, Nissan’s Leaf electric has a range of 73 miles and the Chevy Volt gets 35 all-electric miles but just 37 mpg when it’s using gas. 

And drivers can choose when they’ll drive the Prius in all-electric mode by switching between EV, Eco and Power modes. You can start off using gas on the highway and then switch to electric for city driving, for example.

Charging takes 2.5-3 hours using a standard 110-volt outlet and can be cut to 90 minutes with a Level 2 charger that Toyota sells for $999). 

Toyota hasn’t announced prices for the 2012 Prius hybrid yet, but 2011 models range from $23,520-$28,790, with no tax incentives available. 

Toyota is conservatively forecasting 15,000 sales in the first full year (it sold 141,000 Prius hybrids last year).

Here’s Toyota’s Plug-In website:

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