Toyota has launched a redesigned Prius PHV (plug-in hybrid vehicle) in Japan which has greatly advanced environmental performance with more advanced equipment and improved charging convenience. More significantly, the use of a large-capacity lithium-ion battery, combined with efficiency improvements in the plug-in hybrid system, has increased the range in EV mode to 68.2 kms and the maximum EV mode speed to 135 km/h, greatly expanding the range when running only on the electric motor.
During short-distance drives at low speeds, such as daily commuting and shopping trips, a PHV can operate as an electric vehicle (EV) and does not consume any petrol. At the same time, it can be driven over long distances as a hybrid vehicle (HV) even after the battery pack no longer has energy. This is an important consideration for motorists and helps to avoid ‘range anxiety’, which is a factor in the slow acceptance of EVs.
The Prius PHV also features a dual motor drive system, using both the electric motor and the generator as the drive force, to achieve powerful acceleration performance. The use of a dedicated heater for the traction battery and the world’s first automatic air conditioner with a heat pump and gas injection function which helps prevent the engine from coming on during EV mode operation.
Though complemented by an electric motor, the 1.8-litre 98 ps/142 Nm petrol engine is also a high-efficiency unit which is capable of achieving up to 37.2 kms/litre.
In Japan, normal charging of the battery pack can be done with a 100V/6A AC supply which is available from a household outlet and requires no special wiring. The car can be charged overnight and start each day with a full battery pack. Should recharging be needed during a journey, the Prius PHV can be charged at Toyota dealers (there are approximately 4,200 charging stations in Japan presently) or at public charging spots (approximately 14,600). Using a quick-charging system, it requires only 20 minutes to have the battery pack recharged to 80% capacity.
The new Prius PHV also features the world’s first ‘solar charging system’ in mass-produced cars. This system derives energy from sunlight and uses it to charge the battery pack while the car is parked, supplying an amount of electricity sufficient for driving a maximum of up to 6.1 kms/day. While the vehicle car is being driven, this system helps to improve fuel efficiency by recharging the auxiliary battery.
When the newly added EV Power Supply Mode has been selected, the car’s external electrical power supply function can supply household electricity without the engine being turned on. In addition, when the HV Power Supply Mode has been selected, the Prius PHV (with the engine running) can supply electricity for about 2 days at a maximum output level of 1,500W, when starting with a full tank of petrol. This means it can help in Toyota’s disaster recovery support activities. For example, cars equipped with the external power supply function can be introduced into company fleets and loaned out following disasters.
Toyota has set a sales target for the new Prius PHV of 2,500 units a month in Japan. Prices of the 5 variants available range from 3,261,600 yen to 4,222,800 yen (about RM127,000 to RM164,000).