Driven: Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid (Prototype)
Production models are a few months away, but Toyota has a few remaining demonstrators from its year-long global trial, and we had the chance to sample it for a few days to see the benefits for ourselves.
Aside from the EDF graphics, there’s very little to distinguish it from a regular Prius. Boot space is reduced slightly to make room for the lithium ion battery packs, and there’s a charging port flap on the front wing (relocated to mirror the fuel flap on the production car), but it’s otherwise identical to a conventional Prius.
Toyota has priced the production version at £31,000 sitting above the regular Prius as a flagship of its fuel-saving technology. Though it sounds like a substantial rise, it boasts staggeringly high fuel economy of 134.5mpg and CO2 emissions of 49g/km and Toyota also says it qualifies for the government’s £5,000 plug-in car grant, which brings pricing it in line with the Nissan LEAF.
Despite its ability to cover long distances, it’s inner city drivers who will get the biggest benefits from its inflated price. From a short charge, which took less than two hours on the prototype, it gives a 14-mile fully electric range at up to 62mph. Exceed that distance or speed, and it functions like a conventional hybrid – still running on vapours.
Over a 48-hour test, with only 9% of its distance covered in EV mode, it easily averaged 67mpg, sometimes showing up to 75mpg with little effort to drive economically. Used primarily for short routes, the savings over its hybrid sibling would be substantial – doubly so with Toyota claiming a £52 per month maximum Benefit In Kind tax outlay.
There’s also a familiarity to the way it saves fuel. Though few understand hybrid technology fully, it feels like a Prius with a little extra frugality on offer rather than something new and challenging and that should count in its favour.
The Prius has brought hybrid technology to the masses, and the Plug-In version allows it to compete against the many new electric models joining the market. Despite its higher screen price, Toyota have shown most cars covered distances well within its full electric range. For inner-city businesses, it could offer huge savings on fuel.
Sector: Lower Medium
Type: Petrol-Electric Plug-In Hybrid Vehicle
Price: £27,895 (after £5,000 government grant) *
Fuel: 134.5mpg *
Electric range: 15.5 miles *
CO2 emissions (tailpipe): 49g/km *
Charging port: J1772
* figures quoted are for the production version