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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