Tokyo (Japan) - Good news or bad news? Well, that depends on your viewpoint. The Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid is expected to become the first affordable and mass-produced plug-in hybrid vehicle that will let you recharge the electric engine through a power plug at home and drive completely gasoline-independent for at least a few dozen miles. However, the plug-in hybrid is scheduled to arrive in 2010, a full year behind what industry sources have indicated so far.
The plug-in hybrid is finally confirmed and has received a production date. It isn’t a big surprise as Toyota put the vehicle on a global road show last year and while we did not get an answer when the car would go into mass-production, the general tone in the industry was 2009 as a 2010 model. Don’t get your hopes up yet, as the first plug-in hybrids are reserved to become fleet vehicles only.
Compared to the current Prius’ nickel-metal hydride battery, the plug-in hybrid will be using a li-ion battery. Toyota said it will begin production of li-ion batteries in small quantities in 2009 and ramp to volume in 2010 for the plug-in Prius. Specifications of the Prius plug-in are largely unknown, but industry sources indicated that Toyota is shooting for a 40 mile range per charge.
The current Prius has a 110 hp engine is rated at 48 mpg (city) and 45 mpg (hwy). There are after-market solution that convert a Prius into a much more efficient vehicle already - A123 systems, for example claims to be able to increase the Prius’ mpg rating to 150 mpg.
If you are looking for other ways to be more independent from the rising cost of fuel, your options are very limited at this time. The value proposition of diesel models is eroding with diesel prices near or even above $5 per gallon. Electric cars appear to be the way to go. Chevrolet’s Volt is also scheduled to become available in 2010, but it appears that this will be a rather pricey car for the masses with General Motors already indicating that it will be tough to keep the price tag below $30,000.
If you have enough cash on hand, on the other side, the purchase of an electric car may not be a priority on your list and you may stay with upcoming models such as Porsche’s Cayenne hybrid SUV. But there is an opportunity to pour your money into a new and futuristic generation of cars as well - which includes the $100,000+ Tesla roadster as well as the $80,000 Fisker Karma sedan.
It is pretty much certain that we are at least five or six years away until electric cars may be affordable for the general public and your choices to reduce fuel consumption may be limited to current hybrids and small cars. Cars.com today reported that the Toyota Prius has become the most-researched vehicle on the Internet, while Mini said that it has counted MINI USA has received more than 920,000 visits to its U.S. website, an 89% increase over last year.