As a fleet car or a family car, the Toyota Prius Plug In Hybrid has a roomy cabin to fit large families and because of its smooth drive train it gives a very comfortable ride. Our fleet car review of this car found that the fuel economy and emissions norms are the best in its class and if you happen to sell it in future it commands a high resale value. The only drawbacks are poor rear visibility, lack of steering feel, and the plastic interiors considering the heavy price.
As 2011 is going to be revolutionary as many establishments and businesses have planned to install points for electric vehicles for their charging, this fleet car review of the Toyota Prius Plug In Hybrid is designed to help you make a good choice. A few EVs are going to roll out this year and the next year you will have a fair choice.
The Toyota Prius is already quite common on the roads especially in urban areas, where hybrids have become popular. Toyota has sold over two million hybrid models and hence is the only manufacturer who has the most experience in developing and implementing hybrid technology.
The latest Prius model is capable of running 2 miles solely on the power of its battery and by 2012 you will have a choice of plug-in version as well. The Prius PHV will use lithium-ion batteries and will travel 12.5 miles only on battery power. This distance is quite enough to cover short travels, and for getting a full charge when the battery is empty would take about one and half hours from the usual 240v outlets.
The vehicle is also equipped with regenerative technology which will use the energy while decelerating and charge the battery, thus giving it an optimum range. When the battery power is low the Prius runs on its petrol 1.8 liter engine for the majority of its power requirements and uses the battery for assistance occasionally.
If you feel that this technology comes at a high price, you should keep in mind that the vehicle is eligible for a £5,000 grant, provided the government has extended the cash allocation on its scheme. If you compare the regular model of the Prius, the plug-in vehicle has lesser boot space, as the battery pack is larger, and there is a power-in socket by the door of the front passenger.
The Prius was tested by us for some days to find out its practicality, and also see if the fear of a short range of the EV battery was well founded. The vehicle was driven for about 150 miles or so and most of this distance is covered by a motorway. Usually hybrids or EVs do not perform so well under constant high speeds.
The battery in an EV will quickly deplete. In a hybrid when the engine runs on high speed constantly, it negates the fuel saving benefit, as the motor has to bear its own and the battery’s weight. But we found that the Prius was able to maintain its drive on EV mode from Epsom to about a little beyond M25.
The reading on the trip computer was found to be 75mpg after completing the journey. This was not far from the reading of 74.3mpg we got from the standard Prius combined cycle. But you need to keep in mind that the standard Prius travelling at 70mph would not have got 70mpg economy.
In a course of seven days the vehicle was capable of running in EV mode on my route of about 22 miles, assuming half of the journey was without any emissions from the tail pipe. This would have been ideal, but the actual EV mode distance was only around eight miles after starting the journey. This could be due to the power being sapped by the ventilation and heating system due to the cold weather and also due to keeping speeds from 50 to 70mph.
The Prius seems to be ideal, where the vehicle is used for shorter trips and the charging opportunity presents itself during the course of the day. In case of longer travel a backup of the powertrain economical hybrid would serve the purpose.
By the year 2012 there will be quite a few choices among part EV and part petrol fuelled vehicles like Vauxhall Ampera and Volt from Chevrolet. Peugeot is also coming out with some diesel hybrids. Even with these models, Toyota should be able to maintain a stronger position, given its experience in hybrid technology and a vehicle which has already proven itself.
Our fleet car review verdict is that an EV with a range of 12 miles on battery is appealing for certain travel requirements and if the grant scheme for plug-in vehicles is extended then the Toyota Prius Plug In Hybrid is going to be quite popular, whether as a fleet car or a family car.