Toyota Doubles Prius Plug-In Range

Toyota says the new Prius PHEV allows drivers to stay in EV mode in more situations. EV mode in the original Prius plug-in disengaged at speeds above 62 mph or with heavy throttle input.

March 23, 2016

3 Min Read
3917 Toyota Prius Prime
'17 Toyota Prius Prime

NEW YORK – Toyota unwraps the second-generation Prius plug-in hybrid today at the 2016 New York International Auto Show, vowing the car, going on sale this fall in the U.S., will have double the range of its predecessor.

Officially now called the Prius Prime, the PHEV “is expected to offer an estimated two times the electric range of the previous model – 22 miles (35 km) – meeting the daily commuter distance of over half of U.S. drivers,” Toyota says in a pre-show release.

Disappointing to green-car enthusiasts was the first-gen Prius PHEV 11-mile (18-km) mile stated electric range.

Toyota expects the Prius Prime’s miles-per-gallon-equivalent rating to be 120 or above, noting the car can travel more than 600 miles (966 km) on one 11.3-gallon tank or regular unleaded as well as a full charge. The ’15 Prius PHEV had a 95 MPGe rating.

In hybrid mode, Toyota is targeting a mpg rating equal or better than the new Prius liftback’s. The ’16 Prius liftback is rated at 54/50/52 mpg (4.4-4.7-4.5 L/100 km) city/highway/combined.

As with the non-PHEV Prius, Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive system powers the Prius Prime, pairing the automaker’s 1.8L Atkinson-cycle 4-cyl., a 2016 Wards 10 Best Engines winner, with an 8.8-kWh lithium-ion battery back. The new pack has double the density of the first-gen Prius PHEV’s 4.4-kWh pack.

Toyota says the new Prius PHEV allows drivers to stay in EV mode in more situations, without offering specifics. In the original Prius plug-in, EV mode disengaged at speeds above 62 mph (100 km/h) or with heavy throttle input.

The Prime has a Toyota-first dual motor generator drive system, using the electric motor and generator for drive force. In hybrid mode, the car can run on the gas engine, electric motor or both. When not in EV mode, Toyota says the Prius Prime will “automatically rely more on its electric capability in situations where it is more efficient than running the gasoline engine, especially in urban and suburban driving and during shorter trips.”

As with all PHEVs, the new Prius Prime uses regenerative braking to capture electrical energy during braking and deceleration and feed it to the battery.

Toyota says the Prius Prime, which is 2.4 ins. (61 mm) longer and roughly an inch (25 mm) lower than its predecessor, can be charged via a manufacturer-supplier cord in 5.5 hours on a 120V outlet, or less than half that time when plugged into a 240V outlet.

Like the new Prius liftback, the Prius Prime has edgy character lines, making it “no aero jellybean,” Toyota says. However, the automaker expects the PHEV to have one of the lowest coefficients of drag for a production sedan thanks to features like automatic grille shutters and an aero rear window.

Similar to the first-gen Chevy Volt extended-range EV, the Prime has a center console than runs front-to-back, seating four passengers, not five. Toyota says this lends a “high-end luxury coupe” look to the PHEV.

Rear seats are split 60/40 and fold down.

The car comes standard with heated front seats. Available features include synthetic leather seats, an 11.6-in. (29-cm) tablet display, wireless phone charging and advanced safety technologies including lane-departure alert with steering assist, full-speed dynamic radar cruise control and a blindspot monitor.

Like the original Prius plug-in, the Prius Prime will be available in all 50 states, Toyota says.

Since its spring 2012 on-sale date through last month, first-gen Prius plug-in sales totaled 42,309 units, WardsAuto data shows. The car’s best year was 2014, when 13,264 were delivered.

The best-selling PHEV in 2015 was the Volt, with 15,393 units delivered, WardsAuto data shows. The Prius PHEV, discontinued with the ’15 model year, tallied 4,191.

Toyota releases no pricing for the Prius Prime. The ’15 Prius plug-in began below $30,000 before state and federal PHEV incentives were applied.

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