Second opinion:Toyota’s Prius HPV could be the right product at right time

8 Apr 2011 | 2,317 views | No Comment
        By Don Hammonds The latest hybrid plug-in vehicle to hit Automobile Journal's offices was the Toyota Prius HPV (Hybrid plug-in Vehicle) and it proved to be an excellent example of the benefits--and challenges--of plug-in technology. As our readers know, plug in hybrids, like the Prius HPV and the Chevy Volt  provide outstanding fuel economy by providing all-electric power for a certain nbumnber of miles before the powertrain shifts over to gasoline only use.  In the case of the Prius, it can goo about 13 miles on a full charge,, while the Volt can go about 35 miles on a full electric charge before it shifts over to a gasoline engine for power. The Prius requires only a standard 110 v electrical outlet and a charging time of about three hours before iu is ready to go.  The Volt requires a much longer period to be fully charged--around 10 hours. Toyota has high hopes for its plug-in Prius. A Toyota news release says, "Built specifically to support a global demonstration program beginning in December 2009, the Prius Plug-in Hybrid (PHV) is based on the third-generation Prius. The vehicle represents a significant enhancement of Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive® (HSD) system. It combines high-output lithium-ion batteries with HSD technology to offer an expanded fully electric driving mode. The Prius Plug-in Hybrid can be recharged in approximately three hours from a standard 110V electrical outlet or one and a half hours with a 220V connection. "      The release goes on to say, "The Prius Plug-in Hybrid's lithium-ion battery pack ensures strong, seamless acceleration up to highway speeds of more than 60mph on electric-only power. With a fully charged battery, it can travel a maximum of approximately 13 miles in EV mode. Once the EV-mode charge is depleted, the vehicle defaults to normal, full-hybrid mode and operates like a regular Prius. " The release concludes, "In the past, issues such as weight, size and cost of the large capacity batteries required to offer satisfactory EV range, and the lack of adequate public recharging infrastructure have been barriers to mass-market electric vehicle acceptance. In designing the Prius Plug-in Hybrid, Toyota is addressing these issues. Given current battery development progress and costs, Toyota sees plug-in hybrid vehicles as the most realistic way to use grid electrical power for vehicle propulsion."   The plug in operation allows the Prius overall mileage to jump from the high 40s and low 50s forthe gasoline-only model to as much as 75 or so miles per gallon, according to reports we've gotten.        While the 13 miles of all-electric travel available with the fully charged Prius HPV may seem almost inconsequential, it most certainly is not--and this is why it's important to think about your own personal needs first when buying any car. As it turns out, the Prius plug-in would fit my needs perfectly. I live close to the city, and most of the stuff I do is within four miles or so of my home.    So for me, the 13 miles is surely enough to get me downtown for work and back home  from my suburban Pittsburgh home round trip, since it is about six miles one way for me. That could result in my not having to buy gasoline for a long time, especially if I can stop along the way to do whatever errands I'm going to do.        All I'd have to do is charge up the Prius every night, and I'm good to go, on my way to zero---or close to zero consumption of gasoline daily.   But this is where the challenge comes in. The charging cord and apparatus for the Prius plug-in is too short to reach the outlet on my home's porch. An extension cord is forbidden for this car, as it seems to be for all plug-ins--I had the same problem with the Chevy Volt. So, if Toyota decides to market this car, it will have to find some creative solutions  for people who, like me, live in an older home with no garage in an urban neighborhood where there aren't any charging mechanisms nearby for the Prius plug-in.

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