New Prius Plugs In To California Rebate Action

Toyota’s newest Prius is more than just a hybrid. The 2012 Prius Plug-in can run for 11 miles as a fully electric, zero-emissions vehicle.

With various state incentive programs offering customer rebates for zero-emissions cars, the 2012 Prius Plug-in might be another step toward gas-free cars. In California, the new Prius will be eligible for the state’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Program (CVRP), designed by the California Air Resources Board to promote the use of zero-emissions vehicles. The program offers a $1,500 rebate on the purchase or lease of the car (for over 36 months).

Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid

image via Toyota

The car, which is Toyota’s first shot at a plug-in version of the Prius, is also eligible for a $2,500 federal tax credit that is available with the purchase of any qualified emissions-free plug-in vehicle. According to Toyota, the model is cheaper than most currently available EVs and boasts a new lithium-ion battery that is stronger than previous battery options and requires only 2.5-3 hours of charging time in a standard home outlet.

But even with the government subsidies, it remains to be seen if customers will tolerate the short, 11-mile range of the Prius Plug-in, or its top electric-only speed of 62 mph. In hybrid mode, the car—like other Prius models—does offer exceptional fuel economy: on a full tank and when totally charged, it can travel around 540 miles. But it’s not clear that customers will have much incentive to buy this Prius over any other, as the gas and emissions savings are minimal.

Even so, it’s notable that a renowned global car manufacturer that was working hard to perfect hybrid vehicles just a few years ago is already shifting the model to a partial electric vehicle. It suggests that robust-range EVs are no longer a far-fetched fantasy and are simply a matter of time and research. Engineers and manufacturers will have to design and build cheaper, more efficient batteries that can store more power for longer and can be charged in less time. And an adequate EV infrastructure—including public charging stations and affordable home charging stations—will need to be put in place. Even so, more functioning EVs appear to be just around the corner.

The Prius Plug-in, which will also be available in a Prius Plug-in Advanced model, will also offer various digital applications to maximize charging efficiency, including one that enables drivers to manage charging remotely from a smartphone. Toyota plans to roll out the new car in early 2013 in 14 states, including California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia.

Shifra Mincer is a freelance journalist and passionate tweeter (@Shiframincer) currently living in Israel. Before moving to Israel to apprentice with a homebirth midwife, Shifra worked as Associate Editor of AOL Energy, and was a member of the launch team that got the site up and running. Shifra has over a half a decade of experience in journalism and has written on women's health, green technology, politics and regulation of the energy industry, energy financial news, and local news. While studying for her B.A. at Harvard College, Shifra worked as a news editor for the Harvard Crimson. Shifra is also a yoga teacher and a birth doula and is hoping to create an active Jewish birth community through her web venture www.layda.org.

    • Johan

      Zero emissions? Where does the electricity come from?

      • Alex S

        wherever you want it to come from. If you chose the grid, in most states you will get 67% fossil fuel generated electricity, which you are correct in one sense that the car in that scenario is not “zero emission”, rather it is “less emissions” since 33% of that power is nuclear or renewables instead of a regular car which is powered 100% by fossil fuels. The point being made about it being “zero emission” is that the car itself has zero emissions while in EV mode and whether you put dirty energy or clean energy into the car is your choice.

      • Pete Danko

        Do you mean what are the emissions from the production of the electricity these vehicles use? That’s highly dependent on how the vehicle is charged, of course. But overall, we know this about California’s electricity supply (note this is 2009 data, the most recent I could find, and renewables have inched up at least a few percentage points since then):
        Natural Gas – 56.7%
        Nuclear – 15.3%
        Renewable – 13.9%
        Large Hydro – 12.2%
        Coal – 1.8%

    • Aric Bolf

      A top speed of 62 mph is not adequate. Speed limits in my state top out at 70 mph. Who wants to drive a vehicle 8 mph below the posted speed limit and have every other driver behind them mad. This would cause more traffic jams and accidents because of people wanting to get around the slow-poke. To test this 62 mph limit, get into your current vehicle and drive 62 mph in a 70 mph zone for at least 15 miles. See how you feel. See how traffic behaves around you. Does it feel safe to be in everyone else’s way and unable to do anything about it? Alternatively, try driving on roads that are no higher than 60 mph limit for a month straight. How does that feel?

      • Alex S

        I think Earth Techling might have made a slight mis-representation here by only stating the EV-mode top speed and not mentioning that the Plug-In Prius has a top speed of 112 mph in hybrid mode.

        • Pete Danko

          Thanks for the note, Alex. We’ve updated the story to make it absolutely clear that the 62 mph figure is in electric-only mode. Apologies for any confusion, which was caused by some imprecise editing.

      • Pete Danko

        Aric, as noted in a reply to Alex S, we’ve updated the story to make it absolutely clear that 62 mph is the vehicle’s top speed in *electric only* mode and it can go much faster when it turns on the gas. (But you do raise an interesting point — that those those who do a lot most of their driving at 70 mph won’t be taking full advantage of the vehicle’s best green qualities.)

    • DMF81

       11 miles?  what the is wrong with Toyota.  This proves that they are not serious about saving the environment.  6 years ago there was a add on by Hymotion that gave a plug-in range for the Prius of 25 miles and cost around 10,000. popular mechanics reviewed it a few years ago
      Toyota is selling 11 miles for the same price as a normal Prius + the Hymotion add on.  You get more plug in range for the same price.  To me this makes no sense.  It took Toyota 6 years to make this! C’mon. 
      I could make a better one for the same amount of money without spending any money in R&D 6 years ago.  This just goes to show that they don’t care about the environment.
       
      Also  11 miles does not meet the average daily commute of drivers in the US, at least the Volt or Fisker does (I’m not a fan of GM, but at least they did their research)  

      • Micha_Elyi

        Even in California, the median commute to work (one-way) distance is less than 10 miles.

        Those Toyota guys obviously did their research.  As for you…

        Try again.

        • DMF81

          Where are you getting your info from?  I’m getting my commute times from US Department of Transportation statistics.   Maybe for California, the median is 10 miles, but the MEDIAN for the USA is 32 miles, the AVERAGE is 40 miles. For 10 miles I wouldn’t even drive a car, I’d use a bike.  California is not it’s own country and if Toyota expects to sell anywhere except California they will have problems due to the rather limited plug in range. 

          Here’s a guy who converted his Prius to 25 miles plug in range in 2008

          http://www.roperld.com/science/prius/priushymotionconversion.htm

          Here’s the popular mechanics article circa 2008/2009
          http://green.autoblog.com/2008/10/31/popular-mechanics-tries-out-the-a123-hymotion-phev-prius/

          So more or less they put out an inferior product to something already on the market

          • Pete Danko

            DMF81, Table 27 in the 2009 National Household Transportation Survey — 
            http://nhts.ornl.gov/2009/pub/stt.pdf — says the average U.S. one-way commute distance is 12.09 miles.

          • Pete Danko

            DMF81, Table 27 in the 2009 National Household Transportation Survey — 
            http://nhts.ornl.gov/2009/pub/stt.pdf — says the average U.S. one-way commute distance is 12.09 miles.

            • DMF81

              More recent data says 29 miles.
              http://www.ridetowork.org/transportation-fact-sheet

              Older
              http://www.bts.gov/publications/omnistats/volume_03_issue_04/pdf/entire.pdf

              What we can agree on with either your numbers or my numbers is the Prius can not make a ROUND-trip commute on pure EV range alone and that it may not make be able to a one-way trip on EV alone.
              Do ALL businesses have the infrastructure/charging stations in their parking lots or would it be acceptable to run an extension cord from your office? I’m going to go out on a limb and say no.
              At least the Volt, Fisker, C-max energi have enough range or almost enough range to make a round trip.
              My big grip with Toyota is that there was longer range technology developed that could have been used by Toyota,  but they chose to not use it and said technology could have been purchased and installed for less than the cost of the premium for the plug-in Prius,

              What would you rather have or pay for? Pay 32 K for an 11 mile EV range or 29 K (assuming they they get a bulk discount on the hardware, but pass on the full cost to the consumer) for a 25 mile EV range?  I would rather have 25 mile EV range for 3,000 less

            • Pete Danko

              You make some interesting points regarding Toyota’s choices here (I don’t know enough about the company and the process it went through here to accept them or dispute them). But really, I just wanted to be sure it was understood by readers that Micha_Elyi was indeed correct about how far people commute.

            • DMF81

               March sales results are in
              http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1074785_plug-in-car-sales-soar-in-march-led-by-chevrolet-volt

              Volt-  2,289
              Plug in Prius- 819 (3% of the total Prii sold)
              Leaf – 579

    • msbdude

      true- but those green hov stickers until 2015 alone make it well worth the additional cost!!

    • IXg-man

      All you skeptics are missing the point.   The Plug- in Prius is designed for short range driving to be electric, and longer range driving a normal hybrid Prius.  And medium range to be blended.  In the right hands, it can be a 100MPG car, and anyone else can mindlessly get 70+MPG.  Its an ideal execution of the most modern technology, that allow electric driving without range-anxiety or the need for a second car.  And when its not running electric its still the highest mileage car on the road.  Unlike the Volt’s 30MPG.  That is pathetic.

      I own a Plug-in Prius, and a regular Prius that is now 6 years old, trouble free and still gets 55+ MPG. 
       Best cars I’ve ever owned.    See the rest of you at the gas pump.  Have fun wi dat.