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Toyota May Be Developing Plug-Ins

An industry newsletter reports that Toyota may be reconsidering its “no plug-in” mantra and be developing plug-in hybrids for the US, although the company still remains concerned about battery limitations.

A Toyota presentation at the Tokyo Motor Show outlined the benefits of plug-ins, according to the story in Inside Fuels and Vehicles.

The presentation concludes that plug-ins would perform as well or better than other motor vehicle technology—including regular battery-electric hybrids, all-electric vehicles and even fuel cell vehicles (if the hydrogen is obtained from natural gas)—in five criteria under assessment:

  1. Well-to-wheels carbon dioxide emissions;

  2. Emissions of criteria pollutants;

  3. Refueling infrastructure;

  4. Driving range; and

  5. Fuel diversity.

The report suggests that Toyota may partner with Pacific Gas & Electric on the battery component, an approach not without precedent. Mitsubishi, for example, is working with Tokyo Electric on batteries and a recharging system for its new electric vehicle. (Earlier post.)

(A hat-tip to Felix Kramer and CalCars!)




(Hey, Felix... IT WORKED!)


I think I am becoming a Toyota Fan.
WOW COOL I would never have thought.
This would be my next car if they make it
soon enough.



The plug-in is a desirable car based on having a dual energy source. I can use electric to drive the 10 miles a day for work, and gasoline for the long cross country trips. A 50 statute mile range for the batteries should be reasonable and acceptable. What kind of price would be reasonable? $28K USD?


It all depends on the battery pack. A couple of folks who are into the EV thing were telling me that the larger battery packs cost boocoo right now. The key to the plugins is going to be getting those battery pack costs down by an order of magnitude or so.


I wonder if Toyota will stay wedded to their parallel hybrid design. If you upsize the battery storage and downsize the ICE to something like 25 HP, a serial hybrid might make a lot of sense. Eliminate the power-split device and run the ICE at optimal speed only (HCCI?) if and when you run low on juice. I suppose the mechanical drive connection might be more efficient for highway cruising when batteries are low, but a serial design looks very appealing to me for a plug-in.

Shirley E

Yes, batteries are still expensive, but the pathway to bringing them down to competitive levels is visible. Compare this with fuel cells and hydrogen, which still face the classic Gary Larson "and then a miracle happens" step to be economic.

Kudos to Felix and AC Propulsion and all the rest who have dragged the manufacturers kicking and screaming to this point.

The Anonymous Poster

Besides upsizing the Prius' battery pack, I hope they also upsize the electric motors as well, otherwise you'd be limited to 35mph or so in EV mode.


This would be a brilliant move for them, even if they only make a few. Why? They already have the high ground with the Prius driving the whole hybrid phenom. But people are catching up ...

This satisfies the only critics of Toyota and spikes the ball in the end-zone.


For all the cars in the United States, what percentage of them are parked in a private garage?

I live in Boston MA and very few people have garages. Plug-ins serve citydwellers well because distances are so short, but we citydwellers often have no way to plug our car in, since it's parked down the street.

Harvey D

City-dwellers parking their PHEV on the street will have to find other ways to recharge their batteries. A partial solution may be to use 'quick charge batteries' and get a daily boost at the local 'Quick Charge Station' or recharge at work where charging facilities could be made available at a commercial rate.

Charging facilities, at an appropriate commercial rate, could also be installed at overnight external parking lots, shopping center parkings etc.. and eventually on the streets just like paying parking meters.

It would certainly develop as a new business venture.

Jack Rosebro

"I wonder if Toyota will stay wedded to their parallel hybrid design"

Toyota's design is series-parallel, not a parallel design like Honda. If Toyota wants to bias the Prius toward series hybrid operation to take advantage of a bigger battery, they need only rewrite the software.

There is a bit more on the definitions of series, parallel, and series-parallel hybrids at .


"Besides upsizing the Prius' battery pack, I hope they also upsize the electric motors as well, otherwise you'd be limited to 35mph or so in EV mode."

The main (traction) electric motor is not the limiting factor in the EV speed issue, it's the fact that when the engine isn't spinning it forces the small motor-generator to spin backwards very fast and to avoid spinning it at above 10,000 RPM the engine has to be spinning (not necessarily burning fuel, but consuming some energy) and that's why there's complications with driving above 35 MPH in EV mode. If you aren't in EV mode it's quite possible to run the car on just electric power when the battery is pretty full, in fact if you could somehow remove the ICE and smaller motor-generator the Prius would make an acceptable EV with it's stock traction motor and upgraded battery and power system/ECU.

little shop

True. The limiting factor for the Prius on electric only is the design of the power split device and the size ofthe batteries. The raw electric HP is 67 I think. That is enough to go to 70+mph or more. It would be alot of work but one could make the Prius a GREAT electric car with just software, batteries and a gearing change. Even the electronics would probobly work if you could re-write the software.


Does anyone have data on the emissions, including co2 that would be emitted for, say, a ten mile commute using electric only for a Prius, versus the same commute using the existing hybrid Prius?

Felix Kramer

Following up on the Inside Fuels and Vehicles story,
EV World Editor Bill Moore is the first journalist to have gotten a denial from Toyota (unattributably). Meanwhile, we were unable to get any verification from Pacific Gas & Electric about the very intriguing "utility owns the batteries" approach. We hope at some point to see that internal Toyota presentation, significant in and of itself, that makes a good case for PHEVs' benefits compared to other options.

We were of course hoping to be surprised, but we're not discouraged. We're making progress on many fronts.

So CalCars, California Electric Transportation Association, Electric Power Research Institute, American Public Power Association, Advanced Hybrid Vehicle Development Consortium, Electric Drive Transportation Asosciation, Plug-In Austin, PlugInAmerica, Electric Auto Association, SetAmericaFree, Institute for Analysis of Global Security, Committee on the Present Danger, Securing America's Future Energy, Bluewater Network, Rainforest Action Network, Senators Hatch, Obama, Bennett, Salazar, other Centrist Coalition members, and all the other national and local group and individual supporters of flex-fuel plug-in hybrids will keep doing what we're doing to make it happen -- first from Toyota or another from automaker.

-- Felix Kramer, founder,


For more info. on the extra battery packs, go to


For city dwellers, all commuters actually, don't think of the car being recharged during the night. Think of it being recharged at your workplace parking lot. Either with bring-along PV panels stored in your car, or with PV panels on the roof of your office building, or as a roof on your parking lot, or at the train station's lot, etc.

Rick Thurman

On Recharge (Marketing) Opportunities:

If I understand current recharging limits correctly, the challenge has typically been defined as getting recharge time for a battery pack capable of doing day's worth of driving down to a few minutes, or about the same time it currently takes to fill a gas tank. In terms of consumer acceptance, this is mainly a matter of keeping the psychological perception of time down to a level we're already used to. Although I doubt most of us have to refill the tank daily, and that would factor into the perception of hassle, or "personal maintenance costs", over time.

With the stories about cellphones sparking gas pump fires, I don't know how many people will want to see fast-recharging stations mixed in with current chemfuel stations anyway. I honestly don't know if those are urban legends or a legitimate concern, but the stories are out there, and that's what counts for consumer acceptance.

After Peak Oil really hits, there will probably be far more interest by the general public in "alternative" fuels, but that will mean a lot of confusion and uncertainty as various fuel/ recharge retailers make their guesses as to the best mix of fuels and recharge options to supply with their limited set of pumps at any given corner. Depending on your neighborhood urban/suburban density and parking options, income level and it's effect on fuel purchasing habits, and your job's nature (commute to a single spot versus a drive-oriented job, like industrial sales), your main consideration may be convenience and predictability: is there going to be a pump/recharge option at the next station I see? Will I know before pulling up to an island, even before pulling into the station? Think about when you want to know these sorts of things while contemplating strange exit ramps on the interstate.

Coming up with recharge arrays at employer's parking lots will probably happen at Fortune 500 companies for green PR value, but for them will be a diversion from their main business purpose, the sort of thing they will probably contract with the local utility company to install and service, but company lawyers will want to keep some distance from any liability issues. And how many of us work at those kinds of places? It's a niche, nevertheless.

I'll bet the best place to build viable recharge stations in our current neighborhoods will be in your current parking spot at your larger grocery store, mall, and big-box retailer.
Anyone parking here is going to be busy shopping inside the store while the car is recharging, so there is no lost time waiting on the charge.
Larger parking lots give the retailer some options for mixing recharge parking spots vs non-recharge spots.
I suspect, but don't know for sure, that most large parking lots at these types of retail locations have relatively uncomplicated geometries underground.
Some already have fuel stations on-site anyway as a part of their retailing strategy to get and keep customers on-site, anyway. This is an addition to their current business purpose, not a diversion. And recharge arrays can be kept comfortably far away from the gas pumps. In fact, they will probably be much closer to the main store.
This takes a part of the store grounds that is currently a non-revenue generating customer support function, and turns it into a revenue-generating customer convenience. The parking lot remains a parking lot, but now it makes money -- AS a parking lot.
Anytime we go to one of these larger stores, we're already planning on spending some time there. So recharge technologies don't need to be as fast as at dedicated recharge/fuel station businesses. These retailers probably already have a good idea how long their customers typically are inside, so they can give some good data on acceptable recharge times.

Peak recharge schedules will obviously differ from other at-home or at-work options, since peak times for shopping are different. How will that factor into city-wide peak-electric load?
How much power demand will this add to the substations serving these sites? It will no doubt mean new lines from the local substations, since it will directly add to the stores' on-site demand on exactly the same shedule as current shopping activity. It may be relatively easier to add new capacity to these sites than anywhere else in the city, but if it exacerbates current neighborhood or metro peak electric loads, this could be a big kick in the direction of peak-load pricing. Gas prices vary by micro-geography... recharge prices may vary even more radically, depending on the hour of the day.
I'll bet the geographic pricing within a metro will break down according to:
Cheapest: residential (assuming trickle-charging overnight, off-peak demand, and in some locations, with peak production coming naturally at night from locally-sourced, utility-scale renewable sources);
Next: at-work parking lots with long-term trickle-charging;
Next highest: the big-box retailers mentioned above. Recharge hardware and power-suply lines into the site will be more intensive than the residential and all-day work sites, but not as demanding as the last option;
Dedicated fast recharge stations, just like today's chemfuel stations.
Prices will thereby reflect:
1. varying construction costs to the sites;
2. power-supply issues to the sites;
3. relative scheduling of power delivery to these sites, in light of both neighborhood (substation and down-line distribution costs) and metro-level peak loads;
4. Alternative-use costs to the given sites.

Just a guess here, but I suspect home-overnight recharging will see some of the same issues as internet load usage on cable (CATV)- based networks. Early adopters won't affect neighborhood loads much, but if the majority of the residents are sucking power overnight into their garages to recharge by what is, far, the "biggest appliance in the house", residential distribution grids will show the strain. Not anyone's immediate problem, and it all depends on adoption rates anyway, but it may be easier to get individual retail chains to amortize the cost of new capacity to their stores than to raise residential rates to reflect the rebuilding of distribution lines in given residential neighborhoods to handle the fraction of your neighbors who are recharging autos overnight.

Big-box retail parking lots offer a good middle ground to meet perhaps one-half to two-thirds of the recharge demand, I'll bet.


The big-box retailers should be encouraged to invest in parking lot solar panel systems that double as shelter from the sun and rain. This offers them the new revenue source without putting additional stress on the current infrastructure and of course plenty positive publicity. When cars aren't charging, the excess power can be fed into the grid, so in even if useage is low initially their investment will still be viable.


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Harvey D

Recharging one PHEV per household (10 KWh/day or 3 650 KWh/year) may not be a problem for many of us. Presently, an all electric 2100 sq. ft. house in our area uses 16,000 KWh/year for heating + 6,000 Kwh/year for all other uses.

Another 3,650 KWh/year for the PHEV would increase the total electricity consumption per household by only 14.2%. The peak electrical load hours are from 06:30h to 9:30h and 16h and 20h (Monday to Friday). Outside those two peak consumption periods, there is enough power available to recharge one or two PHEVs per household without increasing the capacity of the local distribution network.

When every household (about 2 million in our province) uses a PHEV, the extra 10 KWh/day/PHEV would require an added power production of 7.3 billion KWh/year or 833 MW continuous. Ten times + that much (50% Hydro and 50% Wind) will be installed in the next 10 years or enough for 10 PHEVs per household.

Let us not panic or worry too much about electrical power availability and actively promote the only CLEAN energy efficient vehicle type for the future = PHEVs or EVs.

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