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2013 Toyota Prius Plug-in Overview
As the debate continues over which platform will rule the future roadways—hybrid or EV—Toyota has decided to split the difference and keep everyone happy. The Prius Plug-in offers everything you could want from an electric vehicle, with none of the worry of being stranded without an outlet.
For the Prius Plug-in, the nickel-metal-hydride battery is dumped in favor of a 4.4kWh lithium-ion setup that allows all-electric operation for up to 15 miles at speeds as high as 62 mph. While that might not seem like much of a change, keep in mind that the average trip for a U.S. driver comes in at less than 6 miles. That means 2 all-electric trips per day without a recharge. When it comes time to plug in your Plug-in, 3 hours is all it’ll take to top off from your wall outlet, while the 240-volt home-charging station Toyota provides does the job in just half that time.
You get everything a normal Prius offers—a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine paired with a 60kWh electric motor, 0.25 drag coefficient, 15-inch alloys and LED lights—plus some Plug-in extras like chrome accents on the door handles, grille, liftgate and charge-port door. But none of that glosses over the normal Prius complaints of shoddy interior materials and an awkward—if spacious—seating arrangement. This is even harder to choke down here, as you’ll be hit with an additional price premium for plug-in convenience, exacerbated by the larger lithium-ion battery pack taking up an extra inch of space and adding even more weight—over 100 pounds.
Perhaps the increased fuel efficiency can justify that, and truly if your daily travels are anything like the average, you could never visit a gas station again. Still, it’s hard to justify cash savings at the pump when you’re hit so hard up front. To sweeten the deal, the Prius Plug-in also comes with a tilt and telescoping steering wheel with audio, climate and even Bluetooth controls, navigation with backup, automatic climate control, CD/MP3 player with USB and available adaptive cruise control. The cruise control will help you save even more fuel on the highway, but again you’ll have to pay up front for the privilege.
Estimates for real-world mileage creep as high as 80 mpg around town, when fully utilizing the electric mode, but expect little better than the regular Prius if you’re often venturing on the freeway or taking longer trips. That’s not a horrible penalty, considering the Prius’ already impressive figures, but be aware that this is not your all-conditions answer.
No, this is more of a targeted approach to your vehicular needs. That’s how cars used to be built, with a specific purpose in mind: no fuel-efficient trucks or 4-seat sports cars. The Prius Plug-in is a vehicle made for a very specific customer—the one who regularly takes trips under 10 miles. Lucky for us, that’s nearly everyone.
by Michael Perkins
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