Toyota Motor Corp. ( TM ) has started taking orders for its much awaited plug-in version of Prius hybrid car that comes with an excellent mileage and affordable price. The automaker will start delivering the plug in hybrid vehicle (PHV) from January next year in Japan.
A PHV shares the characteristics of both a conventional hybrid electric vehicle (which includes an electric motor and an internal combustion engine) and an all-electric vehicle, having a plug to connect to the electrical grid for recharging the batteries.
The Prius PHV Concept was first unveiled in Frankfurt Motor Show in 2009, while the production version of the vehicle was launched at the same auto show in September this year.
Technology and Performance
Prius PHV is based on the third generation Prius model and equipped with 4.4 kWh lithium-ion batteries, which is co-developed with Panasonic Corporation ( PC ). The 5-seater car's high capacity batteries can be charged from a household outlet and any other charging stations in 90 minutes on 200 volts.
The vehicle can travel up to 26.4 km (16.4 miles) per charge. On a full charge and with a full tank of gasoline, the car could technically travel up to 1,000 km (620 miles). It boasts a mileage of 61.0 km per liter in (143 miles per gallon) in combined EV and hybrid driving modes under Japanese test conditions.
Meanwhile, the U.S. version of the Prius PHV will provide a mileage of 87 mpg. It will be delivered in the U.S. from March next year as the company has started taking online orders.
Pricing and Competition
Including subsidies for green vehicles, Prius PHV is priced at ¥3.2 million ($41,000) in Japan, $32,000 in the U.S. and €37,000 in Europe. The automaker plans to sell 35,000 to 40,000 units per year in Japan and 60,000 units globally.
The car's attractive price and alluring performance poses a significant threat to Nissan Motors ' ( NSANY ) Leaf electric car and General Motor 's ( GM ) Volt PHV. Both Nissan and GM are trying very hard to lead in the field of rechargeable cars.
The Prius PHV is priced lower than Leaf electric car and cheaper than Volt PHV, pricing at $41,000 (before subsidies).
Toyota occupied the No.1 spot in hybrid offerings after introducing Prius in 1997. Since then, the automaker sold more than 3.4 million hybrid vehicles to date. It expects to launch as many as 10 more gasoline-electric models by 2015 and offer a fuel-sipping option across its entire line-up by 2020.
Meanwhile, Honda Motor Co. ( HMC ) sold 770,000 hybrids worldwide and Nissan sold 17,500 Leaf cars globally.
In May 2011, Toyota introduced Prius Alpha hatchback wagon, which is also derived from the third generation Prius model, as Prius V (5-seater) in Japan. The vehicle is priced at ¥2.35 million ($29,000) and is equipped with nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries like its predecessor.
Toyota plans to sell Prius V in North America in a year. It also plans to sell the 7-seater version of Prius Alpha in Europe as Prius Plus in mid-2012. The automaker intends to sell 2,000 units of Prius V per month in North America and 2,000 units of Prius Plus per month in Europe.
This year, Toyota also signed a memorandum of understanding Ford Motor Co. ( F ) on the equal product development collaboration in order to manufacture a gas-electric hybrid engine for pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles (SUVs). It has also partnered with Tesla Motors Inc. ( TSLA ) to collaborate on producing electric vehicles based on its small SUV RAV4.
All these initiatives will definitely help Toyota to maintain its top position in the HV market as well as lift its overall position from the backlash of recent mishaps, including the twin disaster in Japan and severe floods in Thailand.