Toyota test drives hybrid car

Japanese car giant Toyota has introduced a plug-in version of its Prius petrol-electric hybrid vehicle. Approximately 600 units will be introduced in Japan, the US and Europe over the first half of 2010 for use by governments and businesses.

The Prius plug-in hybrid can be charged using an external power source such as a household electric outlet and is the first vehicle produced by Toyota to be powered by a lithium-ion battery.

It has a cruising range of approximately 23km with a fully charged battery when operating in electric mode, and an average fuel efficiency of 57km per litre.

In Japan, Toyota will lease approximately 230 units to government ministries, local governments and corporations such as electric power companies. In the US, approximately 150 units will be provided to government agencies, corporations, universities and research agencies for use in a demonstration programme aimed at collecting driving data and spurring the development of a battery-charging infrastructure.

In Europe, Toyota will lease approximately 200 units, with approximately 100 going to the city of Strasbourg, France. The Prius Plug-in Hybrid will also be introduced in the UK and Portugal, with the company also considering introducing it in 10 other European countries, including Germany and the Netherlands, along with Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Toyota will analyse feedback regarding the Prius Plug-in Hybrid, with an aim to begin volume sales in two years.