Toyota has announced a large-scale demonstration of plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHVs) in Strasbourg, France.
About 100 of these vehicles equipped with lithium-ion batteries will be leased to selected companies and partners in the Strasbourg area starting from the end of 2009, continuing for a period of three years.
For this demonstration, project partners EDF and its subsidiary Electricité de Strasbourg (ES) will set up several hundred vehicle charging points at drivers’ homes, partners’ facilities, in public car parks and on public roads.
EDF and Toyota have been working together for the last three years on PHV demonstrations. Toyota began road trials of the vehicles in France in autumn 2007 and the programme was expanded to the UK in September last year.
The road demonstrations are part of a global Toyota project that will also be deployed in Japan and the US from the end of 2009. Toyota’s main objective is to further investigate the technology and performance of PHVs.
A PHV uses Toyota’s hybrid technology, with the added benefit that the vehicle’s batteries can be fully recharged using a standard electrical plug or an electrical charging post to extend its driving range in electric mode.
For short distances, PHVs can be driven as electric vehicles, meaning that the cars would run almost silently and release zero emissions. For longer distances, PHVs work as conventional hybrid vehicles.
According to Toyota, early test results indicate that the fuel efficiency of a PHV is significantly higher than the current Prius. For example, for trips up to 25km, a PHV consumes roughly 60 per cent less fuel than Toyota’s hybrid Prius.
At the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this January, Toyota announced that it would bring forward its plug-in Prius project and start the global delivery of 500 Prius plug-ins equipped with Panasonic-supplied lithium-ion batteries in 2009.
The company previously announced that these would not be deliverable until 2010.
The PHV is just the next step that Toyota is taking towards a completely electric car. At the Detroit auto show, the car maker also unveiled the Toyota FT-EV: an urban commuter battery-electric vehicle (BEV) planned for commercial launch by 2012.
Chinese car maker BYD Auto began selling the first-production PHV, known as the F3DM, in December last year. Other companies, such as General Motors and Ford, have announced their intentions to introduce commercial PHVs in the future.