Toyota Takes Prius Plug-in Hybrid Around Nurburgring, Claims 698MPG (581MPG US)

At 12.9 miles in length, the Nordschleife of the Nürburgring race course in Germany — sometimes known as the “Green Hell’ — is the longest race track in the World. Because it’s legally a road — all be it a toll road — It’s also  a Mecca for petrol heads from around the World eager pay the €27 lap fee to try and tame its 154 turns in as quick a time as possible.

Toyota's Plug-in Prius tackles the Green Hell.

Toyota’s Plug-in Prius tackles the Green Hell.

As a consequence, every type of conceivable vehicle has been driven around the Nordschleife from a van to a specially-built pickup truck and even a tour bus. Under normal conditions, the idea is to get around the track in as fast a time as possible — within the limits of driver and vehicle, of course.

But now Japanese automaker Toyota is claiming a new type of lap record on the Nordschleife after its Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid drove around the Green Hell with on just a five tablespoons of petrol and a fully-charged battery pack. A fuel economy record which it says is “arguably our most important record” of all of its Nordschleife records.

The smallest-range plug-in vehicle on the market today, the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid has an EPA-approved range of just 6 miles from a full charge in electric only mode, rising to 11 miles of range in blended hybrid mode. Driving at a claimed average speed of just 40 mph however, motoring journalist Joe Clifford managed to squeeze as much range out of the plug-in hybrid as possible, only using the car’s 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine when absolutetly necessary to give him some extra power on the hilly parts of the course.

While the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid can travel at up to 60 mph in all-electric mode, our experience with the car shows that you need to be extremely gentle with the accelerator to prevent the internal combustion engine from kicking in, so we’re not surprised that the Prius Plug-in burnt a little fossil fuel on its attempt.

Completing the lap in an agonisingly slow twenty minutes and 59 seconds, Clifford managed to coax a total fuel economy of 698 miles per imperial gallon (581 MPG US) out of the Plug-in Prius, something which Toyota says is a new world record. While the figure Clifford achieved might be far better than the car’s official NEDC rating of 134 MPG, it’s worth noting that the economy figures posted by this particular attempt aren’t as good as some of the all-electric cars we’ve seen race the green mile at far faster speed — including Toyota’s own EV P001 and EV P002 single-seat racers.

Slow, but efficient? Toyota claims new efficiency record on the Nürburgring with a Prius Plug-in Hybrid

Slow, but efficient? Toyota claims new efficiency record on the Nürburgring with a Prius Plug-in Hybrid

Of course, Toyota’s decision to take a  plug-in Prius around the Nordschleife was essentially a very clever publicity stunt designed to illustrate the all-electric capabilities of the Plug-in Prius. While rated in the U.S. at just 6 miles in EV mode, the same vehicle is sold in Europe with a 15.5 mile EV-only range.

Although this disparity exists simply because of the different way in which EV range is officially calculated in the U.S. and Europe, highlighting the all-electric capabilities of the Prius Plug-in Hybrid by driving it around the 12.9 mile race track was obviously a little bit of marketing magic designed to illustrate how the majority of European drivers — whose commutes fall under 15 miles in length — could make the trip to and from work without burning much (if any) petrol.

We’re not sure if Toyota’s marketing trick has worked or if it just managed to perpetuate the myth to everyone else on the Nurburgring that day that all Prius drivers drive well below the speed limit in order to maximise their fuel economy, but we’ve got to hand it to Toyota for this novel — if a little twee — publicity stunt.

If this particular attempt on the Green Hell seems a little too… slow however, you’ll be pleased to know that renowned YouTube Vlogger Bjørn Nysland Bjørn Nyland took his Tesla Model S around the same track a few weeks ago. And while he was driving far slower than he’d have liked to ensure he didn’t end up with a large repair bill, we think you may find his all-electric attempt a little more enjoyable.

Have you driven a plug-in car around the Nordschleife? Would you like to? And if you did, what was your lap time?

Share your stories and thoughts in the Comments below. Oh, and if you think Toyota’s attempt was weird, check out this (very slow) electric car convoy around the Green Hell in 2012.


UPDATE: As our eagle-eyed reader Brian Henderson points out, the Miles Per Gallon equivalent (MPGe) — which takes into account the energy in the battery pack too —  isn’t quite as stellar as Toyota’s instrumentation would suggest. 

Under his calculations, which you can see in the Comments below, the Prius Plug-in Hybrid managed just 98 MPGe on the course. Which do you think is the more accurate reading?


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  • John Briggs

    Let’s make that 581mpgBS (blended scale).nPersonally I think that reporting numbers in this way robs completely of their meaning. I’d much rather see MPGe or something real.

  • Ad van der Meer

    The Toyota has driven about 3 miles per kWh, do you think you can beat him in your Volt and/or Leaf?

  • vdiv

    In other breaking news the Toyota RAV4 EV runs around the North loop of the Nu00fcrburgring 10 times non-stop and gets and infinite gas mileage as it was charged off of a wind turbine.nnI think the people who live around the track should pass a law banning hydrocarbon fuel emissions. That will be a real breaking news!!! 🙂

  • Surya

    In my EV I can get infinite MPG, whatever speed I drive. Not counting the electricity used in the results is leaving out half of the equation.

  • D. Harrower

    It’s Nyland, BTW. Not Nysland.

  • D. Harrower

    Toyota is perpetuating the myth than electrics can’t be driven like real cars. They’re only for people with nothing else to do but try to hypermile the last little bit out of their cars.

  • Prius PHV: 0.93 Laps @ 93 MPGenLEAF: 7-8 Laps @ 114 MPGenModel S: 30-32 Laps @ 89 MPGennSo it appears the Prius did ~12.0 miles EV (4.0 kWh) + 0.9 gas (0.0185 gal)nTotal gal-equiv: 4.0g/33.7kWh/g = 0.1187 Ge for total of 0.1372 GenThus MPGe = 12.9 miles / 0.1372 = 94 MPGe better than avg. 50 MPG, but not 698* MPGnn*not included is gas used by portable charging van, pictured in the “behind the scenes story”:

    • vdiv

      No, that’s good. Except that there is nothing “equivalent” between driving a car on gasoline (MPG) and driving a car on electricity generated by renewable, emission-free means (MPGe BS). That’s the point about EVs that most, including Toyota, and especially our idiotic government, are missing.

      • Agree u2026 MPGe just shows “equivalent energy”. nNot “equivalent emissions” u2026 Prius only has as 12 mile ZE (Zero Emission) range so could not complete even a single lap as a ZEV.nnPoint being besides Toyota getting energy use wrong, “the Toyota record” had been exceeded before the Prius hit the track. (ie: video is pure marketing junk). Other vehicles have exceeded the MPGe, and doing so at faster speeds u2026 totally emissions free! nnMyth of a record u2026 TOTALLY BUSTED!

      • Guest

        There’s no such thing as “emission-free”. It takes pollution and possible toxic byproducts to produce the so-called “emission-free” products in the first place; and that pollution isn’t taken into account in commonly used calculations.

      • Vengeance

        There’s no such thing as “emission-free”. It takes pollution and possible toxic byproducts to produce the so-called “emission-free” products in the first place; and that pollution isn’t taken into account in commonly used calculations.

        • vdiv

          There is such a thing as producing and using electricity emission-free. I never said that producing the car, the track, the driver, the grid, or the wind mills was emission-free. The emissions in question that are threatening our existence and that we are trying to reduce if not eliminate are those from producing distributing and using fossil fuels. Electric cars take care of the distribution and use part. Wind generators, solar panels, solar panels, and mindfully designed hydro power take care of the production part. If you want to take things into your calculation look at the energy expended and the emissions produced from mining, refining and distributing fossil fuels.

          • Vengeance

            You do realize that plastics come from fossil fuels right? The majority of energy consumed comes from fossil fuels, and that’s not counting automobiles. It may possibly take more pollution to make an electric car than it will ever be able to off set. At least as long as we’re using lithium ion batteries and plastic in those cars. Li-Ion batteries’ life cycle isn’t very long and they have to be replaced before they can off set themselves pollution wise. Currently, it seems that hybrids using a cleaner source of fuel such as natural gas are much cleaner than all electric or gas/diesel vehicles. I think when we can practically make carbon nanotube super capacitors, we will be at a point that all electric cars will be the best choice. Though as of now, you are wrong. It just takes a simple google search to see the conflicting reports of each option. Once we have a super capacitor that can be charged and recharged fairly indefinitely, there should be no confliction.

          • vdiv

            Thank you for telling me that I’m wrong :pnI was talking about using fossil fuels for propulsion, not for manufacturing. Fossil fuels are still used for smelting metal ores, making glass etc, not just plastics. However the vast majority is used for transportation fuel and that is what EVs are helping to reduce if not eliminate.

          • Vengeance

            You have been horribly misled if you think propulsion is the main cause of pollution. Power production and manufacturing are the main causes. Just coal burning power plants produce as much carbon dioxide as cars, trucks, buses, and planes combined. That’s not counting manufacturing pollution. Where do you think the power to charge the EV is most likely coming from? I’ve already mentioned that it takes more pollution to create an EV with a Li-Ion battery than it will be able to off-set, so your comment about “EVs are helping to reduce if not eliminate” that pollution is again…wrong.

          • vdiv

            Production of Li-ion cells generates about 50 lbs/kWh of CO2. Making the 24 kWh battery in the LEAF would produce about 1,200 lbs of CO2. With the average consumption of 24 mpg a gasoline car would produce that amount of CO2 in about 1,500 miles.nnnnYeah, I think propulsion is the main transportation source of pollution.

          • Vengeance

            I thought you were saying propulsion was the main source of pollution, which it certainly isn’t. You’re just saying it’s the main source of “transportation” pollution? That’s obvious even for electric cars. Although the battery still accounts for 15-26% of an electric cars’ total lifetime air pollution, not to mention the lithium and cobalt are themselves toxic/pollution and the solvents used to make them cause cancer and neurological problems.nnWhere did you come up with the 50 lbs/kWh? The average is 25.3mpg and that is including trucks/SUVs, so where are the EV trucks/SUVs that you’re comparing them to? All factors considered, the Tesla Model S using the US grid average has a CO2 impact of 292g/mi.n’s about the same as a 1.8l Honda Civic after adding an additional 25% to account for the manufacturing and distribution of the gasoline. The lucky people in Europe have the diesel Civic 1.6 i-DTEC which gets 189g/mi after the additional 25%, or 35% less CO2 emmisions than the electric car…

          • vdiv

            You just like to argue don’t you? You have some beef with Li-ion batteries (don’t use any cordless devices now), EVs, their ability to run emission-free on 100% renewable electricity, and that’s fine, you’re not alone. But to use your words, you are wrong.nnnHere’s what we can do, we can lock those lucky people in a garage with their beloved diesel Civic idling for 30 minutes and then open the door to ask them about the emissions. What do you think they will say? Nothing, as they will be dead. Or we can be nice and lock them with an electric car on all day long, charged by the PV panels on the roof, and go for dinner afterwards all happy.nnnIt’s your choice.

          • Vengeance

            “You have some beef with Li-ion batteries (don’t use any cordless devices now)”nnDuh…you have some beef with carbon dioxide? Don’t use anything in existence now(or breathe for that matter). You just like to not make any sense don’t you?nYou’re still calling it emission-free, which is a fallacy.nn”Here’s what we can do…”nnYou want to lock those people in a smoke stack for an actual comparison, since that’s what they’re charging their car with? Or are you claiming with the PV panels on the roof that they’re off the grid?nnYou just can’t help being wrong, and that’s fine, you’re not alone.

  • Brian, nnYou are SPOT on.

  • Esl1999 .

    Robert Llewellyn is willing to due your show but not Bjorn Nyland. That may explain the Misspelling of his name. If it were me, I would have “accidentally” typed it out as Bjorn Notnysland. As for the Prius, I just rented a regular version for 3 days and found myself trying to keep it EV mode as much as possible. I got 50.5 mpg overall. It’s gateway motoring into the EV world. Albeit, baby steps.