To date, Toyota’s Plug-in Prius hatchback has been seen something of a joke by plug-in car fans. Based on the outgoing 2010-2015 Toyota Prius liftback, it combines Toyota’s standard 1.8-litre 4-cylinder Atkinson cycle hybrid drivetrain with a 4.4 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion and an on-board charger.
Capable of traveling around 6 miles in electric-only mode and 11 miles in blended mode, it has just enough battery power and low enough emissions to qualify as a Transitional Zero Emissions Vehicle (TZEV) under California’s Air Resources Board emissions requirements. That not only means people buying it can qualify for a rebate under California’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Project, but it also makes the Plug-in Prius eligible for the state’s Green Clean Air Vehicle decal (HOV lane) access stickers alongside more capable extended-range cars like the BMW i3 REx, Chevrolet Volt and Ford C-Max Energi.
As such, the Prius Plug-in Hybrid has been seen as little more than a compliance car by plug-in advocates rather than a real, usable plug-in.
But that could change with the arrival of the next-generation Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid says GreenCarReports, citing an anonymous but trustworthy auto-industry source who claims that Toyota’s next-generation Prius Plug-in hybrid will have a much greater all-electric range of between 30 and 35 miles per charge.
That would give it a marginal all-electric range advantage over the Ford C-Max Energi and Ford Fusion Energi plug-in hybrids, as well as a similar range to the outgoing Chevrolet Volt extended range electric car.
An all-electric range of between 20 and 30 miles is expected to be the ballpark figure for other cars yet to go on sale in the U.S. market, such as the Audi A3 e-tron sportback plug-in hybrid, the Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid, Volvo XC90 T8 plug-in hybrid and Audi Q7 e-tron Quattro.
Admittedly, those vehicles may not cross-shop against the family-friendly hatchback, but if correct, the rumoured range would at least move Toyota’s plug-in Prius into a more practical and gas-saving place in the market.
Indeed, if the rumoured 30-to-35 mile range is correct, most Americans would be able to carry out their daily commutes without needing to use a drop of gasoline, assuming they could charge at home overnight.
Talking at previous events, Toyota engineers have acknowledged the criticisms levelled against the first-generation (2012-2015) Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid. Based on the 2010-2015 model year Prius liftback, its limited electric power and anaemic all-electric acceleration meant that only the most gentle of drivers were able to drive it in all-electric mode beyond eight or so miles in everyday real-world use without the engine roaring to life.
Moreover, unlike other plug-in cars, a lack of hold or charge mode made it impossible for electric operation to be reserved until later in the trip — a feature most modern range-extended electric and plug-in hybrid cars offer.
While we’ve no other details of the next-generation Prius Plug-in hybrid, we can tell you that it will be based on the same form factor as the upcoming 2016 Prius hybrid.
Pushed back several times to ensure that it meets customer expectations in terms of emissions and gas mileage, the next-generation Toyota Prius was initially due to debut at the start of 2015 — but is now expected to make its official debut towards the end of this year at either the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show in the 2015 LA Auto Show.
Those who have driven it — including CEO of Toyota North America Jim Lentz — say that the wait has been well worth it, with the fourth-generation Prius proving a much sportier and engaging drive than the outgoing model.
As we explained earlier this year, the next-generation Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid won’t debut on dealer lots the same time as the 2016 Prius, with previous estimates placing its production starting in October next year, a full fifteen months after Toyota ended production of the outgoing Prius Plug-in hybrid.
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