70 % of Europeans are expected to live in urban areas by 2015. And recent Toyota studies in urban commuting patterns in France and the UK reveal that over 80 % of car journeys are less than 25 km in length. In France, 55 % of journeys are less than 10 km, whilst in the UK that figure rises to approximately 80 %. In this context, the potential of electricity for providing short- to mid-term sustainable mobility is assured.
Although the environmental merits of electric cars as urban commuters is well proven, the further development of such vehicles is currently handicapped by the weight, size and cost of the large capacity batteries required to offer even barely satisfactory range, and the lack of an adequate recharging infrastructure.
In launching the Prius Plug-in Hybrid Concept, Toyota has addressed both of these issues. It has determined that, in light of current battery development progress, plug-in hybrid architecture is the most feasible technological solution for the electrification of powertrains. A plug-in hybrid vehicle overcomes the issue of limited cruising range. Once the vehicle exceeds the driving range in EV mode, it automatically operates as a traditional full hybrid.
A derivative of the new Prius, the Prius Plug-in Hybrid Concept builds on the core technology of Hybrid Synergy Drive® to address the specific needs of urban-based customers. It is a full hybrid vehicle in which both the electric motor and petrol engine can drive the wheels. A fully electric EV mode is employed for shorter ranges, while the hybrid powertrain’s petrol engine provides the Prius Plug-in Hybrid Concept with true long range capability.
Offering a significant expansion of the hybrid drive system’s electric drive mode capabilities, the Prius Plug-in Hybrid Concept avoids the traditional, limited range and challenging packaging issues of today’s electric vehicles. Moreover, it can be quickly recharged from a conventional household electricity outlet or a public charging post.
In early 2010, over 500 units equipped with lithium-ion batteries, will participate in a limited lease programme worldwide. More than 150 units will be deployed to Europe alone. Before these vehicles can become a commercial reality, Toyota must evaluate each of these technology enhancements in a real-world environment. Through this programme, we aim to evaluate the market’s response and understand which product characteristics are appealing and why.
Similar in format to the new Prius’ Hybrid Synergy Drive® system, the Prius Plug-in Hybrid Concept’s powertrain replaces the nickelmetal hydride battery pack with a newly developed, high-output, lithium-ion battery.
Lithium-ion batteries are used for the first time in a Toyota hybrid vehicle because they have different characteristics to their nickelmetal hydride counterparts. They are also more compact, having superior volumetric energy density, meaning vehicle weight and packaging need not be adversely affected.
Moreover, and most important to retaining the intrinsic convenience of the vehicle, lithium-ion batteries may be recharged far more quickly that nickel-metal hydride alternatives. The battery pack of a Prius Plug-in Hybrid Concept can be fully recharged in one and a half hours (at 230V).
The Prius Plug-in Hybrid Concept’s lithium-ion battery pack ensures strong, seamless acceleration and a maximum speed of 100 km/h when driven in EV mode. With a fully charged battery, it can travel approximately 20 km in EV mode – an increase of 10 km compared to its nickel metal hydride predecessor. For longer distances, the Prius Plug-in Hybrid Concept operates in the manner of a normal full hybrid.
The Prius Plug-in Hybrid generates CO2 emissions below 60 g/km and, like other full hybrid models, realises a significant reduction in PM and NOx.
The reduction of CO2 emissions is a key benefit of the Prius Plugin Hybrid Concept, due to its expanded EV range. Even greater CO2 reductions are possible if the electricity is generated from renewable sources, such as windmills and solar panels. Simply put: the lower the percentage of energy derived from fossil fuels, the better the Prius Plug-in Hybrid Concept’s well-to-wheel CO2 performance.
The new Prius Plug-in Hybrid Concept shares all the comfort, convenience and practicality of the latest generation Prius.
The Prius Plug-in Hybrid Concept’s air conditioning may be activated remotely, when the vehicle is plugged in. Through heating or cooling, the Remote Climate Control System brings the cabin to the required temperature before occupancy.
An exclusive Hybrid System Indicator has also been incorporated to help drivers maximise the benefits of driving in EV mode. The EV driving range based on remaining battery charge has been incorporated within the battery indicator, and an engine starting point display has been added to emphasise the increase in EV driving range.
A display that specifically highlights the Plug-in Hybrid’s contribution to CO2 emission reductions is also available on the Electro Multi-Vision screen. It features a computer graphic image of a single tree gradually transforming into an entire forest during the battery charging process.
A significant development in environmentally-friendly mobility, the Prius Plug-in Hybrid Concept offers commuters and city dwellers all the benefits of an electric vehicle with none of the handicaps. Its enhanced Hybrid Synergy Drive® system combines an expanded, zero CO2 emission EV driving mode range with a true long range capability, and can be fully recharged from standard outlets in one and a half hours.