Toyota Plug-in HV  (Source:
Toyota gets governmental approval for Japanese public road tests of plug-in Prius

The Toyota Prius is already the world's most recognizable hybrid as well as the most efficient hybrid available in the United States (2008 EPA rating of 48MPG city/45MPG highway). Toyota is looking to improve the efficiency of the Prius even further with the development of a plug-in version.

The plug-in Prius, known as the "Plug-in HV," has been certified for public road testing by the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport. Toyota also has plans to test the Plug-in HV in Europe and in the U.S.

The Plug-in HV features a larger capacity nickel-metal hydride battery pack and the ability to be connected to a household power outlet for overnight charging. With a fully topped-off battery, Toyota says that its Plug-in HV can travel 13km (8 miles) before the internal combustion engine (ICE) has to take over.

For comparison, General Motors says that its Volt will travel 40 miles on battery power, while the plug-in hybrid version of its Saturn Vue Green Line will travel 10 miles on battery power alone.

Lithium-ion battery technology -- as used on the Volt and Vue Green Line -- would give the Prius even greater range. However, Toyota has decided against the battery technology citing safety concerns.

Toyota's trepidation is understandable given Sony's troubles with lithium-ion notebook battery packs. That being said, General Motors doesn't appear to share the same apprehension towards lithium-ion batteries and at least one company has already retrofitted existing Prius' with lithium-ion battery packs to boost combined (city/highway) fuel economy to 125MPG.

"Google fired a shot heard 'round the world, and now a second American company has answered the call to defend the rights of the Chinese people." -- Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.)

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