Now that Nissan have their Leaf EV in the works, Mitsubishi have the iMiEV in development and GM are rushing out the Chevrolet Volt, Toyota seem to be feeling a little unarmed in the next stage of green motoring. The NY Times updates us on Toyota’s plans to sell plug in hybrids in about 2 years quoting Takeshi Uchiyamada, Toyota Executive Vice President, as saying “Toyota believes that plug-in hybrids are a realistic solution among vehicles using electricity.” Funny, because not long ago Toyota had a different stance on electrification. In any case, Toyota remains highly conservative in its approach to electric vehicles. In preparation for a mass market launch, Toyota are leasing and renting 600 plug-in hybrids: 230 for Japan, 200 for Europe, 20 for other countries and 150 for the United States. This will provide Toyota with much needed feedback on how to improve the vehicles, a process GM plans on doing with its Volt contemporaneously with its California consumer rollout.
The new plug in hybrids boast a 57km/l (134 non-EPA mpg), can travel up to 23 kilometres (15 miles) on a fully charged lithium ion battery and with the aid of the combustion engine, can travel up 1400 kilometres (870 miles). Mr Uchiyamada said that the price for the plug in hasn’t been set yet, but hoped to limit the extra charge (no pun intended) for the plug in model to less than 1 million yen ($11228). $11K on top of $23K for a Prius? That gets you a number that’s dangerously close to the Volt’s rumored MSRP of $35k-40k, without the Volt’s 40-mile EV range. Besides, there are already plug-in conversions for the Prius, like A12’s Hymotion, which offer some plug-in performance for about $10k; Toyota will have to handily beat their performance to make a solid case for the OEM plug-in. On the other hand, maybe the fact that Toyota’s testing its plug ins before its mass-market rollout counts for something. Besides, unlike most first-generation mass-market EVs, Toyota’s Prius hybrid is solidly profitable. Rather than race to get ahead, Toyota are building slowly from there.