Dec 16, 2009 (From the CalCars-News archive)
Here's CalCars' comment: "We applaud Toyota's recognition that PHEVs' time has come. The technology is good enough to get started and the solution offers a good business case. We hope as this hybrid pioneer watches large and small competitors start selling PHEVs a year earlier, it will accelerate its timetable and raise production levels."
THE PRIUS'S TIMELINES TO TODAY: It's taken a long time. Toyota introduced the Prius as the first-mass-production hybrid in Japan in 1997. It went global in 2001; the second-generation vehicle arrived in 2004, the third in 2009, and over two million have been sold. Meanwhile CalCars did the first Prius conversion in 2004, sparking the growth of an aftermarket industry. Since 2006, a thousand plug-in Prius conversions showing what was possible helped build awareness and support for PHEVs, and the company's public comments evolved from dismissive to open-minded (see http://www.calcars.org/carmakers.html#toyotaquotes ).
Toyota showed its first PHEV prototype in 2007. Until this week, the company had announced plans only for fleet leases of 600 demonstration/test units in Japan, the U.S., and Europe, with consumer sales only a possibility. Now it will start selling them in 2011, with tens of thousands in showrooms in 2012 at a "affordable" price tag. Reporters say Toyota has concluded that PHEVs "will become the market mainstream." http://motoring.asiaone.com/Motoring/News/Story/A1Story20091208-184656.html
INFORMATION SOURCES: Toyota has a new website with basic explanations and specifications at http://www.priusphv.com . And see the illuminating 20-slide presentation by Toyota Chief Engineer Yoshikazu Tanaka http://www.toyota.co.jp/en/tech/environment/conference09/pdf/phv_overview_en.pdf . At http://www.greencarcongress.com/2009/12/tmc-phv-20091214.html read Green Car Congress's summary and postings. Following are our comments based on announced specifications.
BUSINESS DETAILS: Tanaka's presentation projects "full-scale commercialization in two years, on the order of several ten thousands, with widely affordable pricing." Toyota EVP Uchiyamada indicates (below) that the vehicle could sell for under $33,770. With U.S. Recovery Act tax credits of up to $7,500 for the first 200,000 plug-in vehicle from each manufacturer based on battery capacity; the PHV's 5.2 kWh battery pack, from its joint venture Panasonic EV Energy, makes it eligible for about $2,500.
If prices hold, we've been on the right track in saying Toyota might sell a plug-in Prius for little more than $3,000 over a non-PHEV model. A 3.4 useful-kWh pack at $1,000/useful-kWh would cost $3,400. The $1,000 saved by eliminating the NiMH battery could offset a similar cost for a charger and a beefed-up DC:DC converter. As those battery prices decline with the credits, PHEVs could approach the cost of standard hybrids.
Operating costs for a 30km trip compared to gasoline vehicle, based on Japanese petroleum and electric rates, are 58% better when charging at peak times and 77% better off-peak.
TECHNICAL DETAILS: Comparing the vehicle with the 2010 Prius on which it's based (specs at http://www.toyota.com/prius-hybrid/specs.html ), its weight (3,284 pounds/1,490 kg) increases by 242 pounds/110 kg. The engine and motor appear identical, and modified electronics will allow more power from the electric motor.
The PHV uses over 60% of the its 5.2kWh lithium-ion battery pack's capacity to get 23.4 km/14.5 miles all-electric driving at speeds up to 100 km/62 miles/hour. (For Japanese drivers traveling shorter distances, the 20 km "sweet spot" covers 53.7% of daily driving and 51.2% of weekend driving.) Recharging is 180 minutes at 110-120 volts, 100 minutes at 220 -- offering good opportunities to double the vehicle's effective range for those who can charge mid-day at work.
Petroleum and greenhouse gas reductions depend on multiple assumptions -- we can simply say that using the new JC08 driving cycle yields over 100 MPG of gasoline. See http://green.autoblog.com/2009/12/15/what-does-the-prius-phev-mileage-really-mean-on-the-jc08-cycle/ for a discussion of the PHV's fuel efficiency under different conditions; this discussion leaves out consideration of the difference between CAFE and sticker numbers.
FEATURES: The vehicle's new screens' full integration with the navigation system and information about the battery will give drivers feedback about optimizing fuel economy. The car can be cooled in advance while still plugged in for comfort and fuel efficiency.
LOCATIONS: In addition to its already-announced pilot program in Boulder, CO, regional demonstration programs will come to California, Washington DC, New York City, Portland, OR and Pittsburgh, PA. No word on consumer sales regions.
CREDITS TO THE CONVERTERS: We were encouraged to hear that "Executive Vice President Takeshi Uchiyamada, Toyota's R&D chief and father of the original Prius, declined to specify a price range but indicated it would likely be far cheaper than 3 million yen ($33,770). 'Nowadays in the United States, they sell after-market kits for about 1 million yen ($11,260)' to convert a hybrid car into a plug-in, he told a presentation on Monday. 'Of course, we would have to do much better than that as a mass producer.'" http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE5BD11520091214.
Finally carmakers will get a chance to show how much better they can do in mass-production -- not just on price, of course, but also on quality, integration and optimization, safety, and warranties!