Toyota and Ford unveiled working prototypes of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles at the International Electric Vehicle Symposium and Exposition (EVS 23) in Anaheim, Calif. Dec. 2-5. The Toyota Plug-In Hybrid Prius is powered by oversized packs of nickel-metal hydride batteries that take the space used for the spare tire in the trunk. Charging time using standard household electrical energy is one to 1.5 hours at 200v and three to four hours at 100v. Business Fleet editor Chris Brown got a chance to drive Toyota’s plug-in Prius. On the short test drive the car’s performance was no different than to a normal Prius, Brown says. Interestingly, though, the charge lasts for only about seven miles in full EV mode. Toyota developed the plug-in battery system completely in-house. Other battery manufacturers such as Ener1 Inc. and A123 Systems displayed Prius plug-in prototypes at the expo using their more advanced lithium-ion batteries, which claim a 30- to 50-mile charge on electric power only. However, aftermarket conversion systems are not cheap: One manufacturer’s plug-in system runs $12,000 off the shelf. Others cautioned that these aftermarket systems are not crash tested, nor have they been approved by Toyota. Toyota is considering a plug-in hybrid as an option on its next generation Prius, perhaps as soon as the 2010 model year, though no definitive plans have been announced. Toyota says it will use its own battery technology and not license third-party technology. On Monday, Ford delivered the first of 20 Ford Escape Hybrid (FEH) plug-ins to Southern California Edison for fleet testing. The FEH PHEV uses a lithium-ion battery that reportedly gets 120 mpg and can drive 30 miles on a full charge on local roads. The Escape PHEV can be charged from drained to full in less than eight hours. Ford says the vehicle is not economically feasible for public use at present.
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