Toyota’s Prius family of gas sipping automobiles is getting bigger with the addition of the Prius PHV plug-in hybrid, and the Prius v, a midsize station wagon that will deliver an estimated 42 mpg in the city. That bodes well for Toyota achieving the new 54.5 mpg standard that takes effect in 2025.
Both new Priuses (Prii?) are 2012 models, but the Prius v will hit showrooms this fall. The plug-in hybrid is being tested in U.S. markets and will come to market next year.
The Prius PHV uses a lithium-ion battery pack for an electric range of up to about 13 miles at speeds up to about 60 mph on electric power alone. A 98 horsepower engine works with the 80 horsepower electric motor to power the PHV. When the driver calls for more power, or when the battery becomes depleted, the gas engine kicks in to power the PHV. The mileage rating for the gasoline engine in the PHV is 50 mpg. Drive at slow speeds for less than 13 miles per trip and you might not use gas at all.
The PHV is similar to the Chevy Volt in that it can drive an extended range on electric power alone. The Volt’s range on electric power is around 40 miles, but the PHV can be recharged in three hours, compared to eight hours for the Volt. The other major player in electric vehicles is the Nissan Leaf, which has an EV range of up to 100 miles, but no gasoline engine to take over when the battery is depleted.
Toyota has sent out about 150 test Prius PHV vehicles in select U.S. markets to get real world feedback before offering the vehicle on sale to the public. The PHV will go on sale originally in 14 west and east coast states, then in Louisiana and other states a year later.
Meanwhile, with comfortable seating for five, the Prius v answers consumers’ calls for more room in the iconic Prius hybrid car. The Prius v is longer, wider and taller than the regular Prius. The “v” stands for versatility, which comes in the form of 50 percent more cargo space. Toyota says the Prius v is not just an elongated Prius, but a new vehicle designed from the ground up.
Still, the v will have many of the same standard features, like four driving modes (normal, power, eco and EV), a smart key with pushbutton start, an electronic shift lever, hill start assist and a backup camera. The Prius v will deliver an estimated 42 mpg in the city and 38 mpg on the highway, which are the best ratings of any SUV, crossover or wagon.
The Prius v will also be one of the first Toyota vehicles equipped with Entune, a multimedia system that, among other things, leverages the driver’s smart phone to utilize a range of electronic features and apps like Bing, OpenTable, movietickets.com, iheartradio and Pandora.
Toyota is aiming the v squarely at young, growing families, who want more space, more features and more style without sacrificing fuel economy.
Neither the v nor the PHV have what you’d call “spirited” driving, but both are quiet, comfortable, roomy and economical, especially when it comes to petroleum products.
Neither vehicle has been tested for safety by the government, but both are equipped with a full complement of airbags as well as Toyota’s Star Safety System, which includes stability and traction control systems, antilock brakes with electronic brake force distribution, brake assist and a brake override system.
Also on the horizon for the Prius family is the Prius c Concept, a smaller “city” version which is expected to go to market next year.