The leader maker of hybrid vehicles with its Prius, Toyota made a surprise announcement and revealed that they will offer a Plug-In Hybrid by 2010. Toyota is claiming that the vehicle will use Lithium-Ion batteries instead of the less efficient nickel-metal hydride batteries currently being used in the Prius.
The current plug-in hybrid prototype being tested is a modified Prius with additional nickel-metal hydride batteries. When plugged-in, the prototype uses 2.7 kilowatt hours (about 30 cents worth) and recharges in about four hours. Under a full charge, the modified Prius will travel seven miles. While that doesn’t seem like very far to travel on a charge, this is perfect for small trip and short commutes. One must also remember that this is only the prototype and with the improved lithium-ion batteries, the charge capacity and hence the electric only travel range should improve quite a bit.
Reducing our crude oil dependence
One large effect of the development of plug-in hybrids is the start of a shift from our oil dependence. Although we must truly examine and be critical of the source of the electricity being generated for recharging, by changing over to plug-in electrics, we are offered many more choices for our transportation energy needs. Coal (hopefully clean coal if at all), nuclear, wind and solar all become options for powering our transportation needs. Obviously several advances and developments will have to occur before we can drastically reduce gasoline and oil consumption but by taking small incremental steps, we will get there eventually.
Next generation Prius?
I’m looking forward to see what Toyota comes out with as its plug-in hybrid (PHEV). There is also a third generation Prius which is scheduled to be released in 2009 although there appears to be rumours that it might be pushed back to 2010. Perhaps this newly confirmed plug-in hybrid will be released at the same time as the third generation Prius or simply as an option on the new Prius version.
I guess I’ll have to wait a bit longer before trading in my car….