By on October 21, 2010

Toyota, king of the hybrids, won’t sell their first plug-in hybrid before 2012. But they already have their kind of a perception gap. The car will be able to go 23km (14.29 miles) on battery alone, then, the ICE engine will kick in and start making electricity. However, research shows that only a few people know about the electric-only feature. Or do they care at all?

According to The Nikkei [sub] “Toyota Motor Corp. is looking for ways to juice up the appeal of its plug-in hybrid slated to hit the showroom floor in 2012. Japan’s top automaker is seeking to counter the impression that it lags behind rivals like Nissan Motor Co. and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. in environmentally friendly technology and electric vehicles.”

With the latter two, the matter is clear: Both Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV, and Nissan’s Leaf (to be debuted in December) have no perception gap: You plug them in, and they run on pure electric until the battery is empty.

Toyota has dropped the occasional remark that the car can travel a short distance on battery power only. But Toyota exploited range anxiety and stressed the worry-free aspect of a car that won’t leave you stranded. Toyota always took the position that their hybrid is more practical than all-electric cars.

But now a fresh green wave is hitting Japan. Nissan and Mitsubishi are making a lot of hay out of the fact that the i-MiEV and the Leaf do not emit carbon dioxide – at least not out of the non-existent tailpipe. According the the Nikkei, Toyota has changed its message, stressing the electric vehicle technology.

Maybe people don’t take a paltry 14 mile seriously? Not so, says Toyota. According to their survey, about 60 percent of respondents drive their cars 20km or less per trip. Now Toyota tells them to go to the store on battery, and go visit grandma over the weekend with a tank full of gas.

Toyota has another problem: They plan to introduce an all-electric vehicle based on its iQ subcompact in 2012. That will cause further confusion.

Says the Nikkei: “Toyota has won accolades for its environmental technologies, from engines to fuel cells. But new technologies threaten to overturn old ways of doing things, practically overnight, as competitors spring up from unexpected directions. For Toyota to regain its once uncontested leadership in the eco-car market, it will need to hone both its technology and its marketing message.”

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23 Comments on “Toyota’s Plug-In Hybrid Perception Gap...”


  • avatar
    HerrKaLeun

    Comparing actual sales numbers of Prius (and knowing they bring a smaller and a larger Prius type car besides the current one) to the not-yet-existing EV competitors shows me the actual Toyota costumers don’t see a perception gap.
     
    How many Pria does Toyota sell with just one model? Like 300,000 or so a year? that is more than many mainstream OEM sell of one IC line of vehicles. Many manufacturers would like that perception gap. It also is a model in 3rd generation with virtually no technical problems in the past 2 generations.
     
    Adding some more EV capability will help a lot. Keeping it at 14 mile range keeps the battery small and cheap. assuming it still be be under $ 30 K, that is better than the volt, gets better gasoline mileage too and actually has a good track record. Unless we have a country full of charging stations, can charge the batteries reasonably fast and get much much cheaper and lighter batteries and produce renewable electricity only  – this is the way to go.
     
    There always will be some hype stolen by EVs. but most costumers will buy a more reliable technology, at least in 2012. It will be different in 2020.

  • avatar
    ash78

    I’d take a 14-mile electric range over a 40-mile, assuming the price is still commensurately lower between Prius and Volt. The ultimate question is “Do we want to target the mean driver’s daily mileage, plus or minus one standard deviation?” Or do they want to be like the Volt, and aim for a couple standard deviations? How big a net do they want to cast, and how much extra is it going to cost the consumer?

    I think Toyota’s gamble with 14 miles (on an existing and fairly proven platform) is wiser than GM’s all-new car with 40 mile capability. The Volt is still a great idea, but a factory-built lpug-in Prius is long overdue.

    • 0 avatar
      HerrKaLeun

      Yes the plugin-Prius may be overdue…. but has existed for fleet costumers and this ensures the quality is top once average Joe can buy it. I prefer that over the well-known GM “quality” approach to have the final costumer be the beta tester and then take 10 years of the model to fix the problem (remember when they converted gasoline engines to diesels and it took them 3 years to fix the melting cylinder problem??)
       
      Yes, on paper the Volt may be the better EV. but with Toyota you know you get a vehicle that actually works, also in 10 years.
       
      Before we compare the Volt to anything, how many Volts have been used for 5 years in Winter and Summer by average Joe and what is their real world range and mileage then????

    • 0 avatar
      SkiD666

      The problem is that traditionally each successive generation of a car is generally larger and has more features – that mindset will probably not work with ‘electric’ vehicles in the immediate future – people will be more concerned with each generation having more and more range. (ie. Leaf 2.0 has 200 mile range, Volt 2.0 has 80 mile range).

      If that’s the case, then a Prius with 14 miles of range will be seen as being a generation behind the Volt, no matter how good it’s MPG rating is in the ‘real world’.

    • 0 avatar
      HerrKaLeun

      I don’t think the range is so much of a concern for a plug-in hybrid (unless the mileage after exhausting the batteries is so terrible as with the Volt).
      when I get 50 mpg (easily achievable with the Prius) I pay 6 ct per mile in gas at $3 per gallon.
      Assuming it takes me 10 kWh at 15 ct/kWh to charge the Volt and drive 40 miles (and both 10 kWh and 40 miles hasn’t been confirmed in real life) I pay 3.75 ct/ mile. At 35 mpg the Volt costs me 8.6 ct / mile in gasoline mode. Assuming the Volt drives in gasoline mode every once a while (even just to run and test the engine every now and then) it will cost me at least as much as a current Prius. This doesn’t take into account heating, AC etc. I’m sure TTAC will have a volt testing article soon.
       
      with this, a plugin-Prius will have better per mile cost than a Volt from the get-go at lower purchase price.
       
      Of course, oil gets more expensive more quickly than electricity. but my calculation has some validity.

    • 0 avatar
      charly

      Range is a concern. An advantage of an electric car is that you can drive when there is no gas to buy. So if the black market price of gas is $2000 a gallon and your work is 20 miles away you can go to work in a Volt but not in a Prius. And if you work is 7 miles away you could take the prius but if it is only 7 miles away you could even walk.

      A plugin Prius is a gas saver. A Volt is a “there is no gas to buy” car

  • avatar
    vww12

    «It will be different in 2020»
    Says you.  By 2020, electricity will be very very expensive in these United States, because of all of the alternative energy mandates.  This story has already played out in Europe where prices increased an 85% in Spain, 120% in Denmark, 45% in Germany, etc.  Stateside, electric rates have only increased modestly because much of the expensive windmill/solar stuff is not yet online.  Wait till it plays out.
    By 2020, people will have internalized that these 14 gasoline-free plug-in miles are not free, not by a long shot: their regular power bills will have skyrocketed.  The world of green fashion will have moved on and by 2020 driving an electric will no longer be a mark of costly avant-garde “eco” smugness.
    In 2020, therefore, people will coldly weigh whether it is best to drive a real world 50 MPG internal combustion Golf and pay at the pump or a real world 60 MPG-equivalent electric Nissan Tree and pay the utility company.
    I don’t think the outcome is a given.

    • 0 avatar
      protomech

      Yes, electricity rates will go up as we bring more renewable energy online. Nuclear, too, is hugely expensive upfront but relatively cheap to operate. Smarter grids will help somewhat, as there’s plenty of unused capacity at night that the utility companies would love to (and offer incentives for) shift daytime peak demand to.
      A very rosy forecast would see 10% EV sales by 2020.
      Gas will go up as well when the global economy stabilizes and China and India resume ramping up demand.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      Yes electricity might go up but to what – European levels? The Italians are paying about 35 cents per kWh. Now that is 250% over what I currently pay here but it’s not a deal breaker unless you have a a $350 electricity bill already at 9 cents per kWh. I’ll argue that electric cars and all the green tech are still going to be cheaper than these two nearly decade long wars have been which were originally billed as wars for security but are plainly about corporate influence, resource grabs and regional political control. So we pay for wars or we pay for new ideas. I’ll gladly end the wars and pay for new ideas.
      You seem to think that electricity can only be purchased when we all know but some won’t acknowledge you can generate your own. Even here in the southeast I know a guy with a small section of his roof covered in PV panels that at the end of the year gets a check from TVA for ~$50. In other words his normal suburban house consumes no electricity. He does buy a little electricity at night but then makes enough to pay it back during the day. Note that this is a normal ~2500 sq ft house with air conditioning (mandatory in these parts to have air for part of the year to be comfortable).
      What all these EVs will do is force the utilities to upgrade their grid. GOOD. What these high prices will force us to do is buy more efficient appliances when we need a new fridge or washer and think a little about how we consume power. GOOD. It forces innovation on many levels. GOOD.
      For some folks any potential alteration of their lifestyle seems to scare them to death. Just wait – the Chinese and the Indians will force all sorts of consumer lifestyle changes for us Americans through scarcity of raw materials and corporate competition now that we have taught them how to do everything that we used to do for ourselves.
      Let the dollar slip some more and Chinese demand for oil continue to climb (already in progress by leaps and bounds) and we’ll be playing a whole new game. Our gasoline without high European taxes will approach $8 a gallon or more. In the 11 years we’ve owned our current CUV gasoline has about doubled. I figure over the next decade it will double again ($6 per gallon) and that doesn’t take into potential higher gov’t taxes to pay for the poor choices made by the previous AND current presidents and their teams. It doesn’t take into stagnating wages – I haven’t gotten a cost of living raise in 3 years. None have where I work. Still a good job but I’m not going to get rich. It doesn’t take into account a drooping dollar value or the competition for resources from Asia so yeah, $8 is quite possible.
      All this green tech is expensive but it is getting cheaper and will continue to get cheaper as it becomes more mainstream. It won’t replace oil and coal outright but if it allows the power companies and oil refineries to throttle back then GOOD. There is already proof that big oil is shaking in their boots over the possibility that EVs will be common place wrecking the drill baby drill cash cow. Chevron has said as much. They have actively worked to block the adoption of plug in hybrids and EVs. That’s why you won’t see NiMH batteries in EVs anytime soon and why we are 10 years behind what could have been. The battery is the last component of an EV that is still maturing. Everything else is basic electronics. The batteries have gotten better over the past decade. Look at consumer electronics and the batteries these gadgets use compared to the late 80s. Video cameras, laptops, phones, and so forth. Much lighter and much small and the power lasts MUCH longer. The price won’t likely come down much but it won’t go up much more either. A laptop battery is still $100 but $100 isn’t as dear as it was a decade ago.
      Nukes are an option but I’d like to see other designs used. The current round of nukes are pretty much the same designs from the 70s – right? The problem with the Nukes is the cost to build them. $25 billion dollars or so. They last for 30 years or so before getting knocked down. And then the waste – nobody seems to think keeping the waste safe in perpetuity is that expensive. Right now there isn’t a place to put the waste so at all the American nukes the waste is kept on sight I believe I’ve read.
       
      We can go the cheap route and keep burying our waste and burning stuff for several more decades but we humans are plenty smart enough to see that it can’t go on forever. We shouldn’t poison our country just because it is the cheapest choice. I’m not advocating Pop.Sci futuristic cities with hovercars. I don’t think we need to throw out everything old and start over but we can tweak our stuff and how we live to great long term advantage. I guess that is a shortcoming of America –  we make short term choices coupled with the cheapest options. I don’t want that to become the downfall of America.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      Yes electricity might go up but to what – European levels? The Italians are paying about 35 cents per kWh. Now that is 250% over what I currently pay here but it’s not a deal breaker unless you have a a $350 electricity bill already at 9 cents per kWh. I’ll argue that electric cars and all the green tech are still going to be cheaper than these two nearly decade long wars have been which were originally billed as wars for security but are plainly about corporate influence, resource grabs and regional political control. So we pay for wars or we pay for new ideas. I’ll gladly end the wars and pay for new ideas.

      You seem to think that electricity can only be purchased when we all know but some won’t acknowledge you can generate your own. Even here in the southeast I know a guy with a small section of his roof covered in PV panels that at the end of the year gets a check from TVA for ~$50. In other words his normal suburban house consumes no electricity. He does buy a little electricity at night but then makes enough to pay it back during the day. Note that this is a normal ~2500 sq ft house with air conditioning (mandatory in these parts to have air for part of the year to be comfortable).

      What all these EVs will do is force the utilities to upgrade their grid. GOOD. What these high prices will force us to do is buy more efficient appliances when we need a new fridge or washer and think a little about how we consume power. GOOD. It forces innovation on many levels. GOOD.

      For some folks any potential alteration of their lifestyle seems to scare them to death. Just wait – the Chinese and the Indians will force all sorts of consumer lifestyle changes for us Americans through scarcity of raw materials and corporate competition now that we have taught them how to do everything that we used to do for ourselves.

      Let the dollar slip some more and Chinese demand for oil continue to climb (already in progress by leaps and bounds) and we’ll be playing a whole new game. Our gasoline without high European taxes will approach $8 a gallon or more. In the 11 years we’ve owned our current CUV gasoline has about doubled. I figure over the next decade it will double again ($6 per gallon) and that doesn’t take into potential higher gov’t taxes to pay for the poor choices made by the previous AND current presidents and their teams. It doesn’t take into stagnating wages – I haven’t gotten a cost of living raise in 3 years. None have where I work. Still a good job but I’m not going to get rich. It doesn’t take into account a drooping dollar value or the competition for resources from Asia so yeah, $8 is quite possible.

      All this green tech is expensive but it is getting cheaper and will continue to get cheaper as it becomes more mainstream. It won’t replace oil and coal outright but if it allows the power companies and oil refineries to throttle back then GOOD. There is already proof that big oil is shaking in their boots over the possibility that EVs will be common place wrecking the drill baby drill cash cow. Chevron has said as much. They have actively worked to block the adoption of plug in hybrids and EVs. That’s why you won’t see NiMH batteries in EVs anytime soon and why we are 10 years behind what could have been. The battery is the last component of an EV that is still maturing. Everything else is basic electronics. The batteries have gotten better over the past decade. Look at consumer electronics and the batteries these gadgets use compared to the late 80s. Video cameras, laptops, phones, and so forth. Much lighter and much small and the power lasts MUCH longer. The price won’t likely come down much but it won’t go up much more either. A laptop battery is still $100 but $100 isn’t as dear as it was a decade ago.

      Nukes are an option but I’d like to see other designs used. The current round of nukes are pretty much the same designs from the 70s – right? The problem with the Nukes is the cost to build them. $25 billion dollars or so. They last for 30 years or so before getting knocked down. And then the waste – nobody seems to think keeping the waste safe in perpetuity is that expensive. Right now there isn’t a place to put the waste so at all the American nukes the waste is kept on sight I believe I’ve read.

      We can go the cheap route and keep burying our waste and burning stuff for several more decades but we humans are plenty smart enough to see that it can’t go on forever. We shouldn’t poison our country just because it is the cheapest choice. I’m not advocating Pop.Sci futuristic cities with hovercars. I don’t think we need to throw out everything old and start over but we can tweak our stuff and how we live to great long term advantage. I guess that is a shortcoming of America – we make short term choices coupled with the cheapest options. I don’t want that to become the downfall of America.

  • avatar
    obbop

    Stake out your unattended unwatched electric outlets now for future use.
    Just don’t block access to the dumpsters.

  • avatar
    Stingray

    In terms of numbers (not cost, to prevent the use of the asbestos suit again) Volt > Plug-In Prius. More range, more speed available in EV mode.
     
    It simply can go on batteries longer.
     
    In terms of green, Mr. Ghosn is leading the hand now, with the Leaf and a bunch of Renault and Nissan cars that are sure to follow.

  • avatar
    segfault

    Those are some nice looking booth professionals with the iQ.

  • avatar
    L'avventura

    The real question for the Prius PHEV is the price.  Toyota only plans on having a battery that is only around a third as large as the Volt’s, which is why it has a paltry 14 mile EV range.  This is both an advantage and a disadvantage.
     
    The advantage is it should be a lot cheaper to make and the PHEV Prius should be close to 500 lbs lighter then the Volt.   Also, a small battery means all that talk of long charge times and expensive charger installations is unnecessary being a normal plug should be more then enough.  But It also means it doesn’t have a long EV range and gets a lot less money from federal tax rebates.
     
    Edmund’s is predicting it will have a price premium of $4k over the regular base Prius.  Which would mean ~$27k for a PHEV Prius with ~$2k available for rebates.  So ~$25k after rebates.
     
    If Edmunds is right, it” be a huge discount over a Volt, and many may question the necessity of a larger battery, however the PHEV Prius is only a stone-throw away from the Leaf in price.  And the Leaf has a lot more EV-chic to it.

  • avatar
    lakeuser2002

    Has it been mentioned that the prius plug in won’t get full tq/power without the engine on?  What I read (learned) is that it can do the 14miles as long as the driver request is low.  If you want to pull out in high speed traffic and mash it… the engine has to fire up.  Unlike the Volt.

    • 0 avatar
      HerrKaLeun

      This would be similar to what the Prius does now… can drive on battery very slowly (i.e. stop and go). and above 20 mph or high acceleration the IC kicks in. with the larger battery that limit may be 50 mph before the IC kicks in.
       
      Basically the Prius already is a plugin-hybrid but only has half a mile range and up to 20 mph. the larger battery will increase that. this also makes me think it won’t cause many problems for Toyota to integrate.
       
      The volt IC also kicks in above 70 mph in EV mode. (hope TTAC test can confirm that)
       
      I’d like to know how the larger Prius battery affects regular mileage. On the one hand the hybrid drive train can be more efficient with more storage. Especially regenerative breaking etc. On the other hand there will be more weight.
       

    • 0 avatar
      TimCrothers

      The Volt is a PURE EV if you have battery power left in the battery even at speeds of 100MPH.  It’s only a hybrid once the battery is drained.  I repeat THE GAS ENGINE IS NOT USED AT ANY SPEED IF YOU HAVE ELECTRICITY IN THE BATTERY.
      http://gm-volt.com/2010/10/12/chevrolet-volt-electric-drive-propulsion-system-unveiled/

    • 0 avatar
      lakeuser2002

      In reply to HerrKaLeun.  The Volt engine does NOT kick on at 70mph.  It comes on when the battery SOC is low.

      Big difference between it and the plug in Prius.

  • avatar
    blowfish

    Nissan and Mitsubishi are making a lot of hay out of the fact that the i-MiEV and the Leaf do not emit carbon dioxide – at least not out of the non-existent tailpipe.

    the emission will come out remotely at a gen plant few miles away.
    is kind of like the toxic mortgage which will bite u later on anyways.


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