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Company wants to begin "societal preparation"

The Toyota Prius is the world's best selling hybrid-electric vehicle, making up a significant portion of the two million hybrids that Toyota has put in the hands of consumers. Some environmentalists still dream of an affordable battery electric vehicle which would never need to burn gasoline, but the most likely scenario for the next decade will be plug-in hybrids like the Chevrolet Volt.

Toyota has announced that it will begin production of 500 Prius plug-in hybrids for a long-term test program. They will use a a first generation lithium-ion battery that enables all-electric operation at higher speeds and longer distances than the conventional Prius hybrid. When fully charged, the vehicle should be able to achieve a maximum electric-only range of approximately 13 miles (21 KM), and be capable of achieving highway speeds of up to 60 MPH (96.5 KM/h) in electric-only mode.

Only 150 of those hybrids will make their way to the U.S. early next year, while 350 will go to Asia and Europe starting this month. Toyota wants to gather real-world vehicle-use feedback to better understand customer expectations for plug-in technology. It also hopes to confirm real-world performance of first-generation lithium-ion battery technology and spur the development of public-access charging stations.

Production of the 500 batteries started in early November by Panasonic Electric Vehicle Energy, Toyota's joint venture which also produces the nickel-metal hydride batteries used in all Toyota and Lexus hybrids.

All of the plug-ins will be equipped with data retrieval devices which will monitor activities such as how often the vehicle is charged and when; whether the batteries are depleted or being topped off during charging; trip duration, all-EV driving range, and combined MPG.

"This program is a necessary first step in societal preparation, in that it allows us the unique opportunity to inform, educate and prepare customers for the introduction of plug-in hybrid technology," said Irv Miller, Toyota's Group Vice President for Environmental and Public Affairs. "When these vehicles come to market, customers must understand what to expect and if this technology is the right fit for them."

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Apples to Oranges
By Redwin on 12/2/2009 11:28:35 PM , Rating: 5
Its a little misleading to compare a plug in prius and a volt and call them both "plug-in hybrids". While its technically true, it totally glosses over the fact that the volt is a serial hybrid while the prius is a parallel hybrid. This means the plug-in prius will underperform in any electric only mode because its electric motor is really designed to be an assist, not the sole drive train.

The volt has a full sized electric drive train, and the gas motor doesn't turn on until the electric batteries are discharged, and even then only in a generator mode, it never drives the transmission. If you commuted less than 40 miles per day, you'd never burn any gas, and your car would be performing at 100% the whole time.

While both have their good and bad points (essentially volt has better drive train but prius is more affordable) Its very much an apples to oranges comparison that's being made here.

RE: Apples to Oranges
By corduroygt on 12/3/2009 12:27:00 AM , Rating: 2
The reason prius has a weak electric motor has NOTHING to do with it being a parallel hybrid. The Ford Fusion has the same kind of drivetrain, with the exact same power split single speed transmission, but its electric motor is 106 hp. When you use high tech lithium ion batteries with a serial hybrid combination, which the plug in prius will do for the first time, you get better highway/road trip fuel efficiency compared to a series hybrid like the volt, while still getting excellent city mileage thanks to regen.

RE: Apples to Oranges
By encia on 12/3/2009 5:09:12 AM , Rating: 2
The Prius is a serial-parallel hybrid.

With the right battery, Prius Gen2's electic motor was able to push the car to 70 MPH in pure electric mode.

The statement "electric motor is really designed to be an assist" is false in the light of 3rd party battery mod + stock Prius electric motor.

RE: Apples to Oranges
By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 12/3/2009 7:48:11 AM , Rating: 2
It IS designed to be an assist. The fact that someone made it perform in a way that it was not designed to perform doesn't therefore mean that it was designed to perform in that modified fashion.

The fact is that you have to over engineer certain parts so they are not running at peak capacity all the time. The closer a system runs to peak capacity, the less efficient it can be, but also the shorter its life span. If they design it to handle greater capacities, but configure the system to work within a lower range, they extend the life of the motor.

I would like to see how long this motor lasts at 70 mph all the time. I bet it fails in a matter of weeks due to increased heating alone.

RE: Apples to Oranges
By encia on 12/4/2009 7:14:00 AM , Rating: 2
Care to place a $10000 USD bet on that?

From wiki

Low gear (equivalent): When accelerating at low speeds in normal operation, the engine turns more rapidly than the wheels but does not develop sufficient torque. The extra engine speed is fed to MG1 acting as a generator. The output of MG1 is fed to MG2, acting as a motor and adding torque at the driveshaft.

High gear (equivalent): When cruising at high speed, the engine turns more slowly than the wheels but develops more torque than needed. MG2 then runs as a generator to remove the excess engine torque, producing power that is fed to MG1 acting as a motor to increase the wheel speed. In steady state, the engine provides all of the power to propel the car unless the engine is unable to supply it (as during heavy acceleration, or driving up a steep incline at high speed). In this case, the battery supplies the difference. Whenever the required propulsion power changes, the battery quickly balances the power budget, allowing the engine to change power relatively slowly.

As you can see, this is not a pure parallel hybrid.

RE: Apples to Oranges
By Redwin on 12/3/2009 9:59:27 AM , Rating: 4
They put a bigger battery on it and managed to push it to 70- mph in electric mode, but that doesn't really address my point.

Being able to go fast or far in electric mode does not make a car a serial hybrid (and there's no such thing as serial-parallel, that's a contradiction). It's a parallel hybrid because after you deplete your battery going 70mph (and how long will that take? lol), the gas engine does not turn on and charge the battery to keep it going in electric mode, the gas engine turns on and drives the wheels.

That's what parallel means, gas and electric motors both hooked to the transmission, in parallel. Serial means only the electric motor touches the transmission, and the gas motor only provides electricity, so they are hooked up in a series.

A serial hybrid has a less complicated transmission and is more efficient for it. Its designed from the ground up to be driven in all electric mode, and that design simply makes it superior to any parallel hybrid design which needs a complicated and relatively inefficient transmission to accept 2 power sources.

RE: Apples to Oranges
By corduroygt on 12/3/2009 10:33:44 AM , Rating: 2
The complicated transmission you speak of has no clutches, no engagement/disengagement, no hydraulics, no belts like a CVT. It is actually simpler than all auto and manual transmissions found in ordinary cars. It works using the same principle as a differential that all cars have with three rotating parts. It has less than 30 moving parts and the two cars that use it, ford fusion and toyota prius, are the best in their class. It is VERY efficient at constant highway speeds, in fact it is more efficient than first generating the electricity and then converting the electricity to motion via a motor.
Just like a series hybrid, the prius/fusion style series hybrid allows the wheels to turn independently from the ICE.

RE: Apples to Oranges
By Redwin on 12/3/2009 11:20:32 AM , Rating: 2
You make some good points, and I'll concede there are inherent inefficiencies to generating electricity with a motor just to use to drive another motor, but don't underestimate the commiserate increase in efficiency you get out of your ICE by running it at a constant RPM with no gearing.

An ICE hooked up to a transmission has to change RPM as you accelerate and decelerate and switch gears. A huge amount of your engine efficiency is lost as the engine runs in and out of its ideal power band, as compared to a set-RPM motor attached to a generator with known predictable loads.

I don't know enough to claim one method is more or less efficient than the other, but I'd be interested in seeing the math.

Your statement that new parallel hybrid designs like the Prius and Fusion can turn the wheels independently from the ICE is accurate, but only for a little ways (13 miles they are saying?) After that, you're back to driving your wheels with the ICE/transmission. The difference is the volt can drive indefinitely, and the ICE will never drive the wheels directly, only a single-rpm generator set up to run under ideal circumstances.

RE: Apples to Oranges
By corduroygt on 12/3/2009 12:14:34 PM , Rating: 2
But the prius transmission system ensures that the engine runs in optimum conditions a vast majority of the time. No need for sudden load changes on the ICE when you step on the gas, as the electric motor will step in to provide the extra power. All you need is a stronger motor (in the case of prius) and more batteries to achieve the same thing volt achieves. The reason prius,fusion don't have them is because they cost a lot less than 40k. Prius already keeps the ICE along the optimum power curve most of the time with its limited electric motor and battery capacity.

RE: Apples to Oranges
By encia on 12/4/2009 7:32:53 AM , Rating: 2
The Prius doesn't have a standard transmission. Without the counter force from the electric motors, the ICE can not move the car.

RE: Apples to Oranges
By encia on 12/4/2009 7:23:52 AM , Rating: 2
The ICE is connected to a dual electric motor based planetary gear set. It doesn’t have a standard transmission.
Without the electric motors, the ICE cannot push the car i.e. no electric motor counter force.

RE: Apples to Oranges
By aqaq55 on 12/15/2009 8:02:43 AM , Rating: 1

fr ee sh i pp ing

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I've seen a plug-in Prius in Chicago
By gchernis on 12/2/2009 5:17:41 PM , Rating: 2
Nuf said

RE: I've seen a plug-in Prius in Chicago
By Performance Fanboi on 12/2/2009 6:00:45 PM , Rating: 3
Probably an aftermarket plug-in conversion at a cost of about 10 grand.

RE: I've seen a plug-in Prius in Chicago
By boeush on 12/2/2009 9:09:13 PM , Rating: 2
I think the point is, since Toyota wants some real-world data, it could've just saved itself the trouble and bought it from vendors who had been doing plugin conversions for years already.

But inefficient though their R&D practices may be, at least they're executing on their stated goals. That's good to see, as my '05 Prius (bought in '04) isn't getting any younger ;-)

By Spookster on 12/3/2009 12:40:11 AM , Rating: 4
Innefficient? You apparently are not familiar with the concept of TPS or Lean manufacturing. Toyota invented it. Most big companies are now trying to model after Toyota to become as efficient as they are. Lean is very big these days especially in the current economy.

By coolkev99 on 12/3/2009 7:22:38 AM , Rating: 3
I can't believe some of you are argueing over 27 miles difference. Both cars range suck. I realize we have to start somewhere but I'm guessing (like most bleeding edge tech) that this car and the Volt will not be for most people.

I'm still not convinced that electric is "all that". I can't believe that battery production and disposal are any more evviromentally freindly than gasoline. Besides, how do you think the electricity that comes into your home and recharges your car gets created?

As for getting off forgeign oil, yeah thats great. We've got plenty of we just go and get it.

RE: whatever
By Shining Arcanine on 12/3/2009 11:09:42 AM , Rating: 3
Honestly, who cares?

I am driving a 1995 Toyota Avalon and I plan to drive it until I can no longer buy gasoline for it. Just get a car and drive it until there is no longer any fuel for it. Then buy a new car and repeat. Problem solved.

RE: whatever
By mcnabney on 12/3/2009 11:12:12 AM , Rating: 1
We don't have plenty of oil and the reserves we are finding now are very expensive to 'go and get it'. We have loads of coal, wind, and hydro which keeps the money in the country.

Most people don't drive more than 30-40 miles per day, so a moderate range for battery-only is acceptable - otherwise the costs of a bigger battery will further increase the price. Besides, the Volt get excellent mileage (over 40 on the highway) using the generator once the battery is depleted.

Batteries won't be 'disposed of'. They will be 100% recycled into new batteries - that is guaranteed based upon the cost. Cars are already the most recycled product to begin with.

RE: whatever
By shin0bi272 on 12/4/2009 5:30:53 AM , Rating: 2
Its so much fun to listen to people who refuse to wake up and see that they are totally full of it.

We DO have plenty of oil its just been placed off limits by congress (including the oil shale which would yield 3x more oil than the saudi's have and of course anwr in alaska which btw we bought for its natural resources). The CEO of texaco said that if they would open up the offshore areas that are off limits now they could be pumping oil in 6-12 months... thats MONTHS not years. Wind and solar (not that you said solar) are a joke and unless the government subsidizes them no one will use them. Then theres the issue that unless youre a power company you have no way of getting the wind or solar or tidal power to the grid (oh and its gotta be used immediately because theres no batteries on the nation's power grid to store it).

The little lying greenies have totally brainwashed most of the public (especially the kids) into thinking that the whole world is coming to an end and that is all our fault... so quick hurry up and give algore 145 trillion dollars (his number not mine) and he'll fix it... yaaay algore will save us! yeah right...

I drive 38 miles ONE way to work so that shoots your theory right full of holes doesnt it now? just about everyone that doesnt live and work inside a major metropolitan area drives more than 30 miles to work. If youd quit quoting algore and his junk science youd know that.

the volt has no generator to charge the battery thats why its a plug in hybrid. Once your batteries run out a gasoline motor kicks on and its held at a specific rpm to run the electric engine and it does not charge the batteries while its doing so.

I also hope you dont cling to the false hope that all used lithium ion battery packs will be recycled because you know thats not going to happen. Look at the price per ton for dead laptop batteries. Its like 100 bucks. For a TON of dead lithium ion batteries. Now contrast that with the money it will cost to recycle and store and ship the same ton and you are looking at a heavy price tag just for laptop batteries. Now scale that up to the size battery thats in the volt and you can imagine that having to recycle that many lithium ion batteries for 1 car just wont happen. Im sure some people will recycle their batteries (the chevy dealership maybe) but the vast majority of them will be dumped into a landfill. Oh and btw we get all of our lithium (or the vast majority of it anyway) from china... so the more crap we have running on the stuff the richer china gets off of your green hopes (and you know they arent using electric cars to dig the stuff up). It's 3x more "polluting" to make and drive a prius than it is to make and drive a hummer for 5 years each. Why? because of all the "evil co2" put in the air by the machines used to mine the lithium, then to ship it from china to some other country (like say America) for refining into a pure form, then ship it back to china to make it into a battery form then ship it to japan to be put in your prius, then ship it (inside the prius) to the us to be sold. All that shipping puts 3x more co2 into the air than a hummer does from creation through 5 years of driving. Still feel "green"?

RE: whatever
By encia on 12/4/2009 7:37:26 AM , Rating: 2
In other news...
By Etern205 on 12/3/2009 9:39:10 AM , Rating: 2
NYC MTA has already begun testing turbine power buses.

Crap! Was this already on DT?

By Frankster on 12/4/2009 12:44:30 AM , Rating: 2
Some of the earlier comments argue back and forth about which type of hybrid design is inherently more efficient, series or parallel. Once the Volt is out it would be interesting to see a real-world mileage comparison between a new Volt and a new Prius, started with both having drained batteries. They're both designed by major companies, so they most likely won't have missed the easy efficiencies. I'd love to see a "drive off" published that included those data.

By btc909 on 12/2/09, Rating: -1
RE: Awah
By omnicronx on 12/2/2009 6:42:46 PM , Rating: 2
Too bad Chevy Volt?
approximately 13 miles (21 KM), and be capable of achieving highway speeds of up to 60 MPH (96.5 KM/h) in electric-only mode.
60mph? 13 miles? Thats 1/4 the distance of the volt that has no hard speed restrictions. Many peoples commute still require highway driving, I worked around 10M away from my work and I take the highway everyday. I could get back and forth completely in electric mode. At 60mph you can't even go on the highway with the prius in electric mode.

This is kind of cool, but its not yet a volt killer. You are also kidding yourself if you think an lithium version is going to cost the same amount as the current prius right off the bat either. Just like the volt, it will take time for prices to go down.

RE: Awah
By The0ne on 12/2/2009 7:40:14 PM , Rating: 2
I think it's a way to early to say a not yet release product is a killer of another not yet release product. That's just ridiculous. But yes, point is taken.

I still waiting for the Leaf test here in San Diego myself. Curious to see how they fair around town and if it will garner enough interests for more stations beyond the city limits.

RE: Awah
By mindless1 on 12/2/2009 11:33:04 PM , Rating: 2
Well I'll say it anyway, no matter how great the car is otherwise the paper spec of 13 mi. and 60MPH on electric, if these limits remain, place the functionality of the vehicle outside of what most people will be willing to pay for given the increase in cost from the larger battery. Consumers want evolving car functionality, not devolving functionality for the sake of feeling green.

RE: Awah
By Jedi2155 on 12/2/2009 9:11:57 PM , Rating: 2
The Volt has a speed restriction....its 104 MPH.

RE: Awah
By quiksilvr on 12/2/2009 9:47:44 PM , Rating: 2
Why so high? Considering this is geared towards fuel efficiency, it shouldn't be more than 85.

RE: Awah
By randomly on 12/2/2009 10:49:26 PM , Rating: 4
Sufficient speed headroom for passing so you don't suddenly find yourself speed limited and misjudge your pass. Some of the Interstates have 80 mph speed limits, traffic typically moves at 85+. There is no advantage to 85 mph limit vs a 104 mph limit.

RE: Awah
By Alexstarfire on 12/3/09, Rating: -1
RE: Awah
By Spuke on 12/3/2009 10:16:54 AM , Rating: 2
I guess you're not up on your facts here. There are a bit more than a "couple" of states with 75 mph limits. There's 12 total with some parts of west Texas that have 75 or 80 mph limits. Most states have a 70 mph limit.

RE: Awah
By SoulBlighter on 12/2/2009 10:36:14 PM , Rating: 2
The Volt has a speed restriction....its 104 MPH.

Can you name me highways which allow you to go 100mph?

Well Volt for me doesn't justify 40k price, taking the size of the car and feature and benefits it gives, i will prefer to have basic Prius. It will be still cheap to drive prius after 5 years than having a Volt.
I think toyota plug in hybrid prius will be under 27k range. They have better maring of profit to play around and make it more competitive.

RE: Awah
By donxvi on 12/3/2009 3:58:43 PM , Rating: 2
It must be in Japan, the Prius seems to be good for better than 110mph.

RE: Awah
By SoulBlighter on 12/2/2009 10:42:56 PM , Rating: 2
60mph? 13 miles? Thats 1/4 the distance of the volt that has no hard speed restrictions.

I think, they are testing out plug in Hybrid. The final version can offer more than 13 miles or less. And 60mph is better than having mare 47mph.
Once they get enough data, they will be able to offer better milage on EV mode and better speeds.
One thing for sure, and which makes me really like prius is its reliability. Which I dont have to read from forums or reviews, but looking how well they are doing as running taxis in NY and Chicago.

RE: Awah
By Oregonian2 on 12/2/2009 11:34:35 PM , Rating: 2
I'm not sure if just use for taxi service is a sign of reliability. Last few times I went to Las Vegas, they were using Chrysler minivans for taxis.

RE: Awah
By soydios on 12/2/2009 11:43:18 PM , Rating: 2
Too bad Prius. The Volt is going into full mass production while the plug-in Prius is only a few hundred test vehicles.

RE: Awah
By encia on 12/3/2009 5:11:44 AM , Rating: 2
What's Volt's full mass production ETA again?..

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