By John Addison (updated 2/10/10; original 1/12/11)
Driving the Prius Plug-in Hybrid
Scott Lang, CEO of Silver Spring Networks, took the new Prius Plug-in Hybrid for a drive, parked in front of his headquarters, then plugged-in to one of two Clipper Creek charge stations available for employees and visitors. Six hundred Prius Plug-in Hybrids are being used around the world. Next year, it will go on sale to the public as part of a family of four different Prius models.
Silver Spring Networks has over $100 million of venture capital investment, because it provides a leading software platform for the smart grid. Major utilities, SVSE charge equipment providers, and automakers are eager to partern with Silver Springs.
Scott Lang was all smiles during his drive and plug-in because the electric car just might be the killer app of the smart grid and increase the value of Silver Spring smart grid services. So far, customers have not become excited about having smart meters installed. Few people sit at home trying to figure out home to save $5 a month by running their appliances at off hours. In fact, most state utility commissions don’t allow consumer incentives to run applicances off peak. Electric cars are a different matter. Utilities want them charged off-peak so that they do not need to start adding $8,000 transformers in every neighborhood. Experimental off-peak rates are available in many communities, giving new EV drivers a big incentive to program their smart charge to happen automatically at night.
I took one of the Prius Plug-in Hybrids out for a spin, thanks to Bena Chang with the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. This plug-in car looks almost identical with the 2011 Prius and the handling and acceleration are also nearly identical. Touch the EV button in a standard Prius and you can go up to one mile before the engine engages, but only if the battery is fully charged and you’re gently driving bare foot.
In the new Prius Plug-in with 5kWh of lithium batteries, you can easily drive 13 miles before the engine engages without special driving effort. When it leaves electric mode and engages the gasoline engine, it drives hundreds of miles with better mileage than a standard Prius.
The Prius Plug-in can be charged in 90 minutes with a 220v charging station, or in 3 hours with a normal 110v outlet. The new Toyota plug-in is likely to be priced well below the Chevrolet Volt which has a 40 mile electric range. Toyota’s strategy is to incrementally improve the Prius brand and to expand the family.
The Plug-in will be initially offered in 14 states (Arizona, California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Virginia and New Hampshire) where nearly 60 percent of all Prius models are currently sold. Availability in all 50 states will be in 2013.
New Prius v and Prius c Concept Make Their Worldwide Debut
This week at the North American International Auto Show, Toyota officially expanded the Prius family to four models:
- 2011 Prius – world’s best selling hybrid
- 2012 Prius v –midsized crossover SUV with 40 mpg goes on sale Summer 2011
- 2012 Prius c Concept – city car hybrid goes on sale by Summer 2012
- 2012 Prius Plug-in Hybrid – best mileage of any Prius goes on sale by Summer 2012
The Prius midsize liftback has accounted for more than 955,000 sales in the U.S. since it was introduced in 2000. The third-generation Prius, which reached dealerships in June 2009, has continued the hybrid’s heritage of exceptional fuel economy and low emissions, while becoming the third-best selling Toyota passenger car in the U.S.
The Prius has also been a technological flagship vehicle, offering new features to the Toyota brand like Touch Tracer Display, Solar Powered ventilation, Smart Key System with Push Button Start, Lane Keep Assist, an Advanced Parking Guidance System and LED headlamps.
If you’ve been looking for great mileage from an SUV, crossover, or wagon, take a look at the new Prius v. Toyota is positioning with “v” expressing the vehicle’s versatility, for growing families with active lifestyles while providing the same attributes traditionally found in the Prius DNA. It will share the current generation Prius’ platform and Hybrid Synergy Drive technology. Featuring a compact exterior yet spacious interior, the Prius v will feature over 50-percent more interior cargo space than the current Prius, while being almost as aerodynamic. The Prius v will compete with new crossover hybrids like the Ford C-MAX Hybrid. The Prius v will use NiMH batteries, just as the 2011 Prius. Next year, Ford will start delivering lithium batteries in all hybrids and electric cars.
Inside, the Prius v emphasizes overall proportion with spaciousness and flexibility for active families. Comfortable interior space and good visibility has been assisted by a high seating position, ample headroom, and generous rear legroom. A low, wide-opening rear hatch reveals 34.3 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats, making it the most spacious dedicated hybrid vehicle on the market and better than some compact SUVs.
Comfortable seating for five is specifically designed for young families. Sliding second row seats allow for easier ingress and egress and rear-storage flexibility, with a 45-degree recline for greater comfort. The 60/40 split, folding rear seats present four different seat arrangements that provide excellent usability for passengers and luggage, while a fold-flat front-passenger seat allows for extremely long cargo.
Also available, and a Toyota-first, is a resin Panoramic View moonroof with power retractable sun shades that provides an open atmosphere in the cabin with a 40-percent reduction in weight as compared to conventional glass roofs of the same size, and excellent heat insulation performance.
Up front, instrument-panel controls, including a single-dial air-conditioning control and a center-mounted digital combination meter, provide an advanced look and user-friendly command. The driving controls – including the Push Button Start, parking switch, electronic shift lever, and driving mode selection – are distinguished by silver trim.
Despite the spaciousness of a family friendly midsize vehicle, the Prius v will deliver estimated EPA fuel economy ratings of 42 mpg city, 38 mpg highway and 40 mpg combined, the best fuel economy ratings of any SUV, crossover, or wagon on the yet EPA rated.
Like the current generation Prius, the Prius v is a showcase of technology that will include many of the same standard features. Four driving modes (Normal, Power, Eco and EV) satisfy a variety of road conditions and driver preferences. A Smart Key System with Push Button Start, an electronic shift lever, Hill Start Assist Control (HAC), and a back-up camera are standard.
Toyota Prius Safety Features
Available options include energy-efficient LED headlamps, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control with a Pre-Collision System (PCS), and Advanced Parking Guidance System. For a high level of safety, there are seven airbags, a high-strength cabin and an energy-absorbing body structure with impact beams, cross members and leg absorption pads. New driver and front-passenger seat design helps lessen possible whiplash injury during a collision.
Like all Toyota models, the Prius v will feature Toyota’s Star Safety System™ standard, which includes Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction Control (TRAC), Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist. It also features the standard Smart Stop Technology brake-override system.
Entune Multimedia Entertainment and Location Services
Prius v will be one of the first Toyotas with the Entune™ multimedia system. For the first time ever in an automobile, this innovative new system leverages the mobile phone to provide a richer in-vehicle experience with fully integrated and wireless upgradeable navigation, entertainment and information services. Toyota Entune debuts the first-ever support for engaging mobile apps, such as Bing, OpenTable, and movietickets.com, along with accessing useful travel-related services, such as live weather, traffic, fuel information (location and price), stocks, news and sports.
Toyota Entune brings the largest selection of music options available to a vehicle, including iheartradio’s 750+ stations, Pandora’s personalized music, the driver’s personal songs from portable media players and iPods (via USB or Bluetooth audio streaming), and more than 170 stations from XM satellite radio.
Featuring a best-in-class, advanced conversational voice recognition system that helps the driver to stay focused on the road, Toyota Entune eliminates the need to memorize thousands of voice commands and helps reduce driver distraction. Entune will also allow for audio read-back and replay capabilities for text messages, with the ability to respond by pre-set “Quick Reply Messages.”
Prius v will combine Entune with a standard Display Audio system rich with dynamic entertainment and communication features. The system will include HD Radio with iTunes tagging for future purchase; XM radio, weather, sports, stocks and local fuel pricing; Bluetooth hands-free phone and wireless audio; and full iPod integration including music and video.
Prius c Concept: City Car Hybrid
While the current Prius has ushered hybrid technology into the mainstream, and the Prius v will provide the additional room and versatility for active families, compact shoppers are interested in a smaller hybrid at an entry price point and with superior fuel economy. The Prius c Concept, with c representing a “city”-centric vehicle, will appeal to young singles and couples who want an eco-sensitive, high-mileage, fun-to-drive Prius.
Prius c Concept is the inspiration for an additional Prius family member that will come to market in the first half of 2012 as the most value-oriented hybrid in the U.S. market with the highest mileage of any “cordless” hybrid. Whether you want to save a fortune on gasoline or in paying for parking, Toyota is expanding the Prius family to match your needs.