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).
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.