Official: Toyota Prius Plug-in makes its debut in the Zipcar network

Article by Christian Andrei, on January 31, 2011

Zipcar officially announced today the introduction of eight Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid Vehicles (PHVs) into its network. According to Zipcar a.k.a. world's leading car sharing service, the new cars will help it test and evaluate the plug-in hybrid technology but will also help it to see how electric vehicles (EVs) can fit into a large-scale car-sharing model.

For those interested, you must know that the cars will be available to Zipcar members in Boston/Cambridge, San Francisco and Portland, Oregon.

Moreover, it appears that the new vehicles are part of Zipcar members in Boston/Cambridge, San Francisco and Portland, Oregon in order to demonstrate that plug-in hybrid technology can be introduced successfully on the streets. For those who don’t know, the Toyota Prius PHVs will be officially available to the public in 2012.

Zipcar Chairman and CEO Scott Griffith revealed that since the company operates one of the world’s largest connected vehicle networks, it remains to be committed to taking a deliberate and careful approach when it comes to electric vehicles.

Since Toyota has long been known for its commitment when it comes to technologies for plug-in and hybrid vehicles, Griffith continued, they were the perfect partner for this undertaking. The company remains to be dedicated to supporting innovative technologies not just in a strategic way but also in a manner that can meet the standards when it comes to multi-country, multi-city, and large scale car sharing, he added.

The company continues to be the best test bed especially in getting the needed early consumer acceptance for electric vehicles. CEO Griffith further added that with this project, the companies will be able to get the needed direct feedback from the thousands of consumers located in three cities and thus aid in evaluating how electric vehicles can suitable for large-scale car sharing model.

The lithium-ion batteries that power the Prius PHV can be recharged by simply using a 110-volt power outlet, though it would take around three hours to fully charge it. Running purely on electricity, it can go up to 62 mph or as far as 13 miles.

After that it will revert and run as a standard Prius hybrid, averaging around 50 miles for each gallon. The Prius PHV therefore is the best vehicle for car sharing as it can go the needed distance regardless of the charge it was picked up.

Since of the drives done by Zipcar members do not reach 13 miles, almost all of the trips are emission-free. When driving the Prius PHV, Zipcar members are ensured of enough electric charge while on short trips but they are assured as well to have a back-up in case longer travel is needed or will have to be used in between charges.

Meanwhile, national manager, advanced technology vehicles, Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc., Mary Nickerson, shared that the goal of the PHV demonstration program is to get customer feedback on the plug-in hybrid technology as well as real-world driving data.

Toyota is happy to be partnering with Zipcar in order to examine further how this particular technology can have a larger environmental impact by being part of the car sharing model, Nickerson continued.

With the program, the company will be able to understand better how plug-in hybrid technology will benefit future customers, assess the performance of vehicles with plug-in hybrid technology under various driving conditions, and help the company inform and educate the public on this technology.

Zipcar has long been a pioneer in the use of advanced vehicle technologies. It is also the first car sharing company U.S. to include EVs in its fleet especially with the introduction of the Toyota RAV4 EVs in 2002 at Boston.

Zipcar was also the first company to offer hybrid vehicles after hybrid vehicles were first launched back in 2003 in Seattle. At present, Zipcar provides the plug-in hybrids for the San Francisco market and pure EV models for the London market. The company currently offers more than 1,000 units of hybrid vehicles around the world, which is around 15% to 20% of its whole fleet.

Press Release

Zipcar Announces Program with Toyota to Launch Multi-City Introduction of Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles (PHVs)

Zipcar, Inc., the world's leading car sharing service, today announced the introduction of eight Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid Vehicles (PHVs) into the Zipcar network, in an effort to further test and evaluate plug-in hybrid technology and gain increased intelligence on how electric vehicles (EVs) can fit into a large-scale car-sharing model. The Prius PHVs are now available to Zipcar members in Boston/Cambridge, San Francisco and Portland, Oregon.

The new vehicles are part of a pilot program with Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. to demonstrate plug-in hybrid technology, evaluate the performance of the vehicles and help to educate and prepare the public for the electrification of the automobile. The Toyota Prius PHVs, which will become commercially available in 2012, are eight of approximately 160 being distributed by Toyota nationwide.

Zipcar currently offers three of the vehicles in Cambridge/Boston; one located at the Albany Street Garage on the campus of MIT, one at 33 Arch Street in downtown Boston and one at the Prudential Center. San Francisco members have access to three of the Prius PHV vehicles, which join a converted plug-in Prius already in the fleet. One of the vehicles is housed in front of City Hall, one is located in North Point/Fisherman's Wharf and the third is located in Union Square. Two vehicles are also available in Portland, one at the Portland State University Parking Garage and one at Shaver Green. The eight Prius PHVs will be available to Zipcar members in Boston/Cambridge, San Francisco and Portland for reservation throughout 2011.

"As the operator of the largest connected vehicle network in the world, Zipcar is committed to taking a thoughtful and deliberate approach to EVs. Given Toyota's long standing commitment to hybrid and plug-in vehicle technologies, they are an ideal partner for this project. We are dedicated to embracing cutting-edge vehicle technology in a strategic way, and in a way that meets the standards of large scale, multi-city, multi-country car sharing," said Scott Griffith, Chairman and CEO of Zipcar. "Zipcar is an ideal test bed for early consumer acceptance of EVs. This project will allow companies to receive direct feedback from thousands of consumers in three cities and help evaluate how EVs fit into a large-scale car sharing model."

The Prius PHV is powered by lithium-ion batteries and can be charged from a standard 110-volt outlet. The vehicle, which takes up to three hours to charge, can travel on electric-only power at speeds of up to 62 mph for approximately 13 miles, after which it shifts to operate as a conventional Prius hybrid, averaging an estimated 50 miles per gallon. This makes the PHV model ideal for car sharing, as members are assured that the car can go the distance, no matter the charge when they pick it up. Because many trips taken by Zipcar members are fewer than 13 miles, many PHV trips will be emission-free. With the Prius PHV, Zipcar members can rely on the electric charge for shorter trips, but rest assured they have back-up for longer road trips or for use between charges.

"The PHV demonstration program is designed to gather real-world driving data and customer feedback on plug-in hybrid technology, and we're excited to be working with Zipcar to further test how this technology could have even greater environmental impact by fitting into the car sharing model," said Mary Nickerson, national manager, advanced technology vehicles, Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. "This program will help us to educate and inform the public on plug-in hybrid technology, evaluate the performance of the vehicle under different driving conditions and better understand the benefits to future customers."

Zipcar has been a pioneer in using advanced vehicle technologies, being the first car sharing company in the United States to introduce electric vehicles into its fleet with the launch of Toyota RAV4 EVs in Boston in 2002, and the first to offer hybrid vehicles with the launch of hybrid vehicles in Seattle in 2003. Zipcar currently offers converted plug-in hybrids in San Francisco and pure EV models in the London market. Today, Zipcar offers over 1,000 hybrid vehicles available internationally, representing 15-20% of the company's entire fleet.

About Zipcar

Zipcar is the world's leading car-sharing service with more than 530,000 members and 8,000 vehicles in urban areas and college campuses throughout the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. Zipcar offers more than 30 makes and models of self-service vehicles by the hour or day to residents and businesses looking for an alternative to the high costs and hassles of owning a car.

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