What is it? Unlike the regular Prius, which you never have to plug in, this one takes part of its power from an electrical cord. The plug-in Prius uses an estimated 4 kwh lithium-ion battery pack that can be charged from a plug in place of the standard nickel-metal hydride battery pack.
What's new or notable? Toyota claims it can go up to 10 miles on electricity and reach speeds of more than 60 miles per hour without starting the gas engine. (The gas engine is the same 1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder used in the regular Prius.) An EV-mode switch prevents the engine from starting unless the driver steps hard on the accelerator to demand extra power.
CR's take Consumer Reports had an opportunity to drive a prototype of Toyotas plug-in Prius last year. It wouldnt go 10 miles on electric power at 60 mph, but we drove all around downtown Portland, Ore., at speeds exceeding 40 mph in electric power, and the system worked seamlessly.
When will it be available: Toyota says it will sell about 350 plug-in Prius models to fleet customers worldwide, starting in January 2010. About 150 of those will be in California, New York, Washington, D.C., and some smaller U.S. markets. The company plans to gather data on how and when the cars are charged to help inform any wider rollout of plug-in hybrids and electric cars.