The environmental profile of Toyota’s new Prius Plug-in wouldn’t fail to impress with its extended all-electric driving range, very low CO2 emissions and outstanding fuel economy when operating in full hybrid mode. With these attributes, the new Prius Plug-in would be capable of sustaining the daily driving costs for motorists.
The Prius Plug-in in the UK is unmatched as no other model currently available is capable of what its Hybrid Synergy Drive full hybrid powertrain can do. Like an electric vehicle, it is nearly totally silent and it makes zero emissions. But it can be driven on its lithium-ion battery for about 15.5 miles and in speeds of up to 51mph.
When the battery charge drops to a certain level, the hybrid system kicks in so there’s no need to worry whether the car has sufficient power to get to its destination. The hybrid system comes with a very efficient 1.8-litre petrol engine.
The Vauxhall Ampera uses a petrol engine as a “range extender” to support the electric motor but the Prius Plug-in has a higher specification and more seats. The Plug-in could also save nearly £2,000 on costs over three years/60,000 miles with a wider range and faster battery charging time.
For Toyota, the Hybrid Synergy Drive represents the base technology architecture for its future models. With the launch of the new Prius Plug-in Hybrid, the brand is yet again showing another excellent application of this technology. One advantage of the Hybrid Synergy Drive is that due to the modular design, it can be fitted easily to various energy sources. Thus, it can be used not just for Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV), but even for Electric Vehicles (EV), as well as Fuel Cell Vehicles (FCV).
Under a PHEV, the full hybrid system platform, with its long range capability, is basically the same. The exception is that the battery is more powerful resulting in the all-electric driving range being lengthened. This battery can be charged externally.
Using it on an EV powertrain means that the Hybrid Synergy Drive will have a simpler architecture since there is no petrol engine. In order to compensate for this loss, the electric motor is made even more powerful with the power of the battery more than enough to allow the vehicle to be driven for a number of hours before any recharging is needed. For the FCV, it still has an electric motor but instead of a gas engine, there is now a unit which uses hydrogen fuel cell technology.
The main advantage of having this technology is that there would be no more need for the battery to be externally recharged as the fuel cells can create the electricity needed. If there is no more liquid hydrogen, refueling it is easy as it can be done in the same way as that of a petrol engine. Without a doubt the PHEV, and clearly the EV, are bound to have a significant part to play in achieving a society where carbon emissions are low.
One problem that Toyota would need to solve is the potential increase in the power demand if vehicle owners decide to recharge their batteries at the same time. The best approach would be to find a way to control, in an optimal manner, the charging time.