There may be a lot of hype these days about electric vehicles, but Toyota–whose gas-electric Prius has long been the eco-car to beat–is taking a decidedly sober approach. In 2009, they rolled out 600 Prius Plug-In Hybrid vehicles worldwide as part of global demonstration program, including 150 in the US. The program is aimed at collecting information about the way that people in different parts of the world actually use electric cars, and as of 2011, this information will be collated via a centralized Toyota website for those curious about EVs and plug in hybrids.
In 2009, 150 Prius Plug-In Hybrids equipped with lithium-ion batteries were placed with program partners in the U.S., including the California Center for Sustainable Energy, Clean Communities of Central New York, CuseCar, Portland State University, San Diego Gas & Electric, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, the Syracuse Center of Excellence, and Syracuse University’s Department of Energy and Computing Management.
New partners in the program, recently announced by Toyota, include Xcel Energy’s SmartGridCity, Qualcomm, South Coast Air Quality Management District, and University of California, Berkeley. Each placement scenario has been generated as part of an effort to model a variety of ‘use cases’ or driving conditions (ie: commute length, usage type, access to charging) to gain maximum input on vehicle performance and customer needs. More partnerships are expected to be announced soon.
According to Toyota, this demonstration program provides a means for Toyota to gather in-use driving feedback and better understand customer expectations for plug-in technology (a component they clearly consider key to successfully marketing the vehicles). It’s also a means by which to gather the kind of technical data that only arises out of a wide variety of real world applications, regarding the overall performance of Toyota’s first-generation lithium-ion battery technology.