Detroit Auto Show: Toyota Prius Plug-In

While several new Prius vehicles revealed by Toyota at the North American International Auto Show were variations on the familiar Prius theme, the company also played an original song: It showed a Prius with a plug.

Toyota said the Prius Plug-in can go about 13 miles, and up to speeds of 60 mph, on a compact lithium-ion battery (as opposed to the usual Prius nickel metal hydride battery). Using a standard household outlet the battery will receive a full charge in three hours; with a 220-volt setup the time is reduced to 1.7 hours, the company said.

Toyota Prius Plug-in

image via Toyota

How does 13 miles compare to, say, the Chevy Volt? Not very well, actually. GM’s extended-range electric vehicle can go around 40 miles before the battery gives up the ghost and a gasoline-powered engine takes over. On the flip side, however, it becomes like a regular Prius, meaning you get some of the best gas mileage of any car today.

Toyota said it expects the Plug-in Prius – 150 of which are being tested in demonstration programs around the country today – to make it to market in the first half of 2012.

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Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.