Toyota Introduces 2012 Prius Plug-in Hybrid

Toyota introduced the Prius Plug-in Hybrid at the annual Green Drive Expo. Joining the popular third-generation Prius Liftback and the new Prius v, the new Prius Plug-in combines the benefits of the standard Prius model’s hybrid vehicle operation with extended electric vehicle (EV) driving and more affordable pricing than pure electric or range-extender type vehicles. The 2012 Prius Plug-in Hybrid, which offers seating for five, is expected to achieve a manufacturer-estimated 87 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) in combined driving and 49 MPG in hybrid mode.

Toyota has sold more than one million Prius models in the United States since the first-generation model was introduced for model-year 2001. The recent introduction of the larger Prius v and now the Prius Plug-in Hybrid brings this eco-focused model range to four distinct vehicles, including the Prius c, which will debut in 2012. 

The 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid will allow true EV operation and performance for up to 15 miles at speeds up to 62 mph, along with quick home charging using a standard AC outlet and 15-amp dedicated circuit. Operating in EV mode, the Prius Plug-in Hybrid provides the quick, smooth quiet driving of a pure electric vehicle. The Prius Plug-in Hybrid offers the same five-passenger seating and luggage space as the standard Prius model.

The 2012 Prius Plug-in Hybrid retains the Hybrid Synergy Drive of the standard Prius model and will seamlessly switch into hybrid operation at a pre-determined state of battery charge. A newly developed 4.4 kWh lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery pack replaces the standard Prius model’s nickel metal hydride (NiMH) battery and fits under the rear cargo floor, and the vehicle adds an easy-to-use external charging cable.

A full charge using an external AC outlet takes approximately 2.5 to 3.0 hours using a 120v household outlet or 1.5 hours using a 240v outlet. The included 120v charging cable connects to the charging port inlet located on the right-rear fender.

In addition to offering Entune, Toyota’s new multimedia system, available smartphone applications developed for the Prius Plug-in Hybrid include Charge Management, Remote Air Conditioning System, Charging Station Map, Vehicle Finder and Eco Dashboard.


EV and Hybrid Operation

The Prius Plug-in operates much the same way as the standard Prius model while offering extended EV range and plug-in charging. Current Prius owners will feel instantly familiar with the new model while enjoying more benefits of EV driving.

The Plug-in Hybrid system consists of a large-capacity Li-ion battery and an external battery-charging port connected to the standard Prius Hybrid Synergy Drive system.

Toyota developed the new compact, lightweight, high-output battery specifically for the Prius Plug-in Hybrid. The 4.4 kWh battery pack includes a battery charger located under battery that features an internal cooling fan. The hybrid system’s inverter and has been optimized for the new, higher-capacity battery. In addition, the hybrid cooling system uses a larger heat exchanger and higher-capacity fan motor.

As in the standard Prius Hybrid model, the Prius Plug-in Hybrid shuts down the gasoline engine at a stop and accelerates away with the hybrid battery providing electricity to the front motor; the Prius Plug-in Hybrid can rely on battery power alone for longer distances and higher speeds than the standard Prius. It features a new battery state-of-charge gauge, and a standard multi-information display panel monitors fuel and energy consumption to help encourage economical driving habits.

New multi-information display additions have been included in the Prius Plug-in. A new EV Drive Ratio display records the ratio of driving distance covered by EV power, and the Hybrid System Indicator shows possible EV driving range when in EV mode. An Eco Savings Record screen, new to both the 2012 updated Prius and the Prius Plug-in, allows drivers to measure their savings over a customizable pre-set comparison vehicle. The pre-set areas include fuel cost for a gallon of gas and miles-per-gallon average.

Hybrid Synergy Drive

The Hybrid Synergy Drive system in the Prius Plug-in Hybrid is essentially the same as in the current third-generation Prius and new Prius v models. The system uses two high-output electric , one 60kw (80 hp) unit that mainly works to power the compact, lightweight transaxle, and another smaller motor that works as the electric power source for battery regeneration and as a starter for the gas engine. Maximum motor-drive voltage is 650 volts DC.

Hybrid Synergy Drive is a series-parallel hybrid system that can provide power either from the engine alone, or the electric motor/generator alone, or any mix of both. A hybrid control computer manages the system so that optimum power is delivered according to driver demand. A start/stop system and regenerative braking also help to conserve fuel, the latter recharging the battery upon deceleration.

Hybrid Synergy Drive is built around a specially adapted, efficient 98-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that runs on the Atkinson cycle and contributes to a maximum 134 total system horsepower. Key components include an electric water pump that requires no belts, and an Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) system that helps warm the engine quickly, reducing fuel consumption when the engine is cold.

The compact and lightweight gasoline engine produces low noise and vibration. Sophisticated valve control, injector design, and other technologies help reduce emissions to allow the Prius Plug-in to qualify for an enhanced ATPZEV emissions rating. A new low-pressure fuel-vapor containment tank system releases pressure in the tank for the engine to consume the generated vapor.

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