Toyota Motor Corporation has announced the launch schedule for the first plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version of its new Gen III Prius, confirming that the initial group of about 500 evaluation models will be hitting the roads before the end of 2009. Japan is in line to get 200 of these even-more-economical PHEV variants, while Europe and America are each slated to receive 150. In an attempt to gather the most and most accurate information about the day-to-day operation of these vehicles, Toyota has deemed that virtually all will be destined for government or fleet use.
Unlike the latest conventional Prius model which teams its gasoline engine with a Nickel-Metal Hydrive (Ni-MH) battery pack, this new PHEV will be the first Toyota hybrid of any kind fitted with a more advanced Lithium-ion (Li-ion) cell array. It can be fully recharged via a standard outlet or dedicated charger unit in one to four hours, depending on the voltage levels. Lighter, more compact and more energy-efficient, Li-ion packs are destined to replace their Ni-MH precursors across the corporate lineup in the coming years. Prototype versions of the PHEV Prius are reportedly averaging 65 mpg on the combined cycle, compared to the 50-mpg figure of the standard 2010 Prius Hybrid.