Mike Stevens | Sep 28, 2010

Toyota Australia has announced it will soon take part in global trials for the plug-in hybrid (PHV) variant of its third generation Prius, with five of the 600 test vehicles allocated for Australia.

As with other regions around the world, government agencies in Australia will be involved with the initial plug-in 'fleet' trial. Toyota will monitor vehicle usage to determine the requirements of battery charging infrastructure in the Australian market.

Feedback collected during this roll-out phase will be used by Toyota to accelerate the adoption of PHVs. Toyota hopes to be selling its plug-in hybrid models in the tens of thousands within the next two years.

The Prius plug-in is the first Toyota vehicle to run a lithium-ion battery. Using the extended range of the plug-in battery-pack, the Prius can cover up to 23 kilometres before the petrol motor is required, after which the plug-in Prius functions as a normal petrol-electric hybrid.

Toyota Australia's David Buttner said the program would provide data for Toyota, and for users, about the benefits and challenges involved in the electrification of vehicles. It will also trial the performance of first-generation lithium-ion batteries.

"The trial will allow Toyota and its end-user partners to gather real-world information to better understand expectations for plug-in technology," Mr Buttner said.

Initial calculations based on the Japanese fuel consumption test cycle reveal that the Prius Plug-in is capable of using as little as 1.75 l/100km and producing just 41g/km of Co2.

In Japan, Toyota will lease around 230 vehicles to government ministries and local governments in selected EV & PHV (electric vehicle and plug-in hybrid) Towns Programs, run by the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

Mr Buttner said partners would be chosen based on their commitment to the technology, their ability to provide feedback and their geographic area.

The United States will get 150 cars, these going to corporations, universities and research agencies as part of a demonstration program to help develop battery charging infrastructure.

A further 200 units have been allocated to Europe, with 100 of those going to the City of Strasbourg in France.

In time Toyota hopes to introduce the Plug-in Prius across Europe and the UK with markets such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand also under consideration.

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