Toyota starts 2nd phase of Prius Plug-In MPG Challenge

Article by Anita Panait, on July 17, 2013

Toyota Motor Corp. launched the second phase of the Prius Plug-In MPG Challenge as part of its bid to increase awareness of the Prius Plug-in hybrid's fuel economy. A Toyota spokeswoman told Automotive News in an e-mail that they have discovered a general lack of understanding about electric and hybrid technologies in the general marketplace as well as anxiety about range.

The 30-day contest will see seven eco-friendly groups and individuals targeting to achieve the highest overall fuel economy. Competitors have to travel at least 300 miles total and 75 miles each week.  The winning participant is the one that could log the highest fuel economy after 30 days, based on the vehicle's trip computer.

Each winner of the phase gets a $2,500 donation to the charity of choice. Second- and third-placers get charitable donations of $1,000 and $500. Each participant also gets a $200 gasoline card. The Prius Plug-in hybrid is EPA rated at 95 MPGe, or miles per gallon equivalent and competes in the small but growing alternative power segment.

According to the Automotive News Data Center, the alternative power segment posted a 12-percent gain in sales in the United States in the first half of 2013 to 173,464 units. Toyota, however, logged a 5-percent decline in sales of all of its Prius units in the first half of 2013 to 120,214 units.

On the hand, Prius’ main rival, the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid saw its U.S. sales surge 12 percent in the first six months of 2013 to 9,855 units.

Other main rival, the Nissan Leaf electric vehicle saw its sales in the US more than tripled in the first half of 2013 to 9,839 units.  Sales for the Volt soared after Chevrolet offered cash rebates of $4,000 on the 2013 Volt and $5,000 on the 2012 model, and while sales for the Leaf surged after Nissan trimmed its price.

Toyota revealed that its electric vehicles, as well as the plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, will have an important part to play when it comes to a period of low carbon emissions. However, the brand will need to deal with one particular issue, which is that demand for power will likely increase if owners of such cars recharge their batteries at the same time.

One solution could be to find a way to control the charging time. This does not diminish however the impact that the new Prius Plug-in Hybrid may have. For once it has the Hybrid Synergy Drive, or HSD, the core technology platform that Toyota plans to be part of its future. More important than that, this new model shows the fact that the HSD has another application.

The main advantage of the HSD is that since it comes with a modular design, one advantage is that it can be applied to a wide range of energy. Thus, this system can be used whether the model is a Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) or even an Electric Vehicle (EV). It can even be utilized with a Fuel Cell Vehicle (FCV). When used in a PHEV, the HSD remains the same and continues to have the long range capability.

One difference is that the battery now offers more power resulting in an increase in the driving range when under pure electricity. For the EV version, a simple platform is used since there is no petrol engine. Instead, there is an electric motor as well as a battery with enough power to allow the EV to be driven for hours before any recharging is needed.

For the FCV, the architecture is similar to the PHEV with the main difference being instead of using a petrol engine, it is one that is powered by hydrogen fuel cell technology. Since the fuel cells themselves can create the required electricity needed by the battery pack, the need for any external charging is eliminated. Instead, all that is needed is to refuel the FCV with liquid hydrogen much like how one would go about refueling petrol for standard engines.

Topics: toyota, toyota prius

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