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Brand New Toyota Prius

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Tony O'Kane | Jun 4, 2009

THE CHEVY VOLT isn't too far away from the showroom and Volvo has just announced that it'll be bringing out its own plug-in hybrid in 2012. They're not alone either, as Volkswagen is already trialing its plug-in tech and high consumer interest in plug-in hybrids has prompted Honda to revise its no plug-in stance.

Not to be outdone, Toyota has announced that it will begin leasing out 500 examples of the long-awaited Prius Plug-in Hybrid Vehicle (PHV) before the end of this year.

The cars will be be used to trial the real-world performance of not only the plug-in charging system, but also the new lithium-ion battery packs that will replace the nickel-metal hydride batteries currently used in the third-generation Prius.

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"Future customers will have high expectations for these emerging technologies. This Prius PHV fleet program is a key first step in confirming how and when we might bring large numbers of plug-in hybrids to global markets," Irv Miller, Group Vice President of Environmental and Public Affairs said earlier this year.

Of the 500 Prius PHVs, 150 are destined for the USA, 150 for Europe and the remaining 200 for Japan. The cars will largely be used in fleet-lease arrangements by government bodies, and won't be available for purchase.

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Considering Toyota's just-released third-gen Prius is going gangbusters in Japanese showrooms and is expected to sell like the proverbial hotcakes in the USA, we can only imagine the buyer response that would be generated by a plug-in Prius.

However, Toyota had better get moving quick: with a number of its competitors with their own PHVs in the works, consumers may be spoilt for choice by the time a charge-it-yourself Toyota lands in showrooms.

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