Toyota To Reveal New Prius PHEV On March 23rd

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Originally published on EV Obsession.

While all the hype as of late has been for the rapidly approaching Tesla Model 3 reveal on March 31, there are other happenings occurring in the electric vehicle world as well. Toyota will be unveiling the newest plug-in hybrid version of the Prius on March 23rd, for instance, which is rumored to possess an improved all-electric range.

Considering that the current Prius plug-in hybrid (PHEV) only possesses an all-electric range of 11 miles, an improvement wouldn’t be a difficult thing to deliver — but considering how reluctant Toyota has been to take electric vehicles seriously, who knows what we can expect.


The reveal will be taking place at the New York Auto Show, at 9:10 am EDT on Wednesday the 23rd, for those interested. A live-stream of the event can be accessed here.

A recent press release from the company hyping the reveal contained the words “put limits in the rearview,” which does seem to suggest that the range issues will be addressed in the new version.

GM Volt provides more:

Rumors have said the Prius with plug-port is “expected” to get 30-35 miles EV range this time around. Would that this could be true. In fact, we shall see whether that is correct or a lower US EPA estimate in the high teens or more-likely low-20s is the reality.

At this stage the EPA number may not even be announced and Toyota may only give its own estimate, but underlying the car again is the fourth-generation Prius, Toyota’s most fuel-efficient ever and sportiest handling too. That car gets 52 mpg in most trims, 56 mpg in an Eco tim, and the Prius plug-in has been said by Toyota to be shooting for the same target in charge sustaining (gas hybrid) mode.

Unique styling details to further set the two variants apart is also believed likely. So, without really saying much official about the new plug-in, Toyota is saying this is a vehicle that will make quite a splash.

Hyping the unveil, the recent press release stated: “The city that never sleeps is about to get a wake-up call.”

Well, maybe. If nothing else though, the event should serve as a nice warmup for the Tesla Model 3 unveil a week later.

Reprinted with permission.

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

James Ayre has 4830 posts and counting. See all posts by James Ayre

74 thoughts on “Toyota To Reveal New Prius PHEV On March 23rd

  • 30 miles feels a little bit too little too late.

    But better late than never I guess?

    • I would agree. We have heard the 30plus range from the rumormill for quite a while now. Now we will only have to wait a little longer.
      I suspect most of the potential customers already have a Volt.

    • It would be an upgrade from my 2012 volt with ~35 miles. But wait, that’s a 2012.

      In all seriousness though:

      For a prius with 52 mpg, 25 miles of electric
      and a volt with 41 mpg, 50 miles of electric
      (solves for gallons of fuel consumed at crossover point)

      The volt uses less gas until 143 miles into a trip, after which the prius uses less. Yeah, the Volt is better for all but the weirdest use cases.

      Since most drives are very short, it’s hard for the vehicles with less pure electric range to ever use less gasoline.

      • You still have to do regular maintenance on the second motor (engine) though, right? So if you only used the engine say 3000 miles in a year, shouldn’t you still do regular oil changes? And by regular I mean every few months? I wouldn’t want even relatively unused oil to be sitting for too long.

        • Oil doesn’t go bad when just sitting. Water vapor can build up in the crankcase (IIRC). There can be problems with ICEVs if they are constantly used for only short runs and not allowed to fully warm up.

          The Volt periodically runs the ICE even if the car is being driven on battery all the time. I wonder if that’s partially to get any water out of the lubrication system.

          • This isn’t *quite* true for most cars. If you own a corolla or Civic and attempt to do an oil change every 2 years with limited driving, you will absolutely do damage to the car. This is because the crankcase is vented to the atmosphere, and will slowly accumulate water in the crankcase with changing seasons. Also, short trips in the cold for most small engines means they accumulate water in the crankcase. The Volt on the other hand has a lot of engineering built into it to make sure that periodic oil changes are very infrequent indeed. Running the engine periodically is part of this. Occasional use of gasoline stabilizer when you do get oil changes is another part.

            I’m actually seriously looking at a Volt when the Smart Electric drive comes up on it’s lease. The more I hear about it, the more impressed I become. And part of it is that I’ll be moving further away from the office, making it impossible to get there and back on the coldest days of the year.

          • I think you’re agreeing with me?

            We seem to be saying the same thing.

          • Yes, Just throwing the minor caveat that oil does go bad just sitting in a normal car.

          • Yes. It does. It oxidizes and picks up moisture. Same issues are happening with EV brakes, right?
            The maintenance heat up is a good idea to drive the moisture out,
            I would be careful about the oil lasting two years, IMO, at least until the manufacturers have more experience. It doesn’t cost much to change it every year.

          • Yeah, but there’s nothing *wrong* with brakes oxidizing and picking up moisture. Drive it for a minute and they’re fine. No maintenance actually required.

          • The Prius Manual warns you that brakes may be squeaky on first driving off on cold or wet days, and that it’s OK.

            Yes EV brakes get used less, but down around 2km/h the regenerative braking is not functional so you are using the brakes.

            Also rapid stops use the brake pads.

            The brakes seamlessly transition from regenerative to actual brake pads as necessary.

          • I agree that it shouldnt be a major problem. I think they are worrying about the odd occasional warranty problem of the person that rarely touches the brakes.
            And those things can be remedied fairly easily.

        • The 2012 volt has a recommended oil change every 24 months, or sooner in case of high usage. (I’m not sure how much you’d have to drive).

          If you don’t use the engine it will periodically run for a short time in a “maintenance mode” probably to keep everything lubricated.

          If you don’t use the engine for a year, the volt will burn all of the gas sitting in the tank to prevent it from getting stale (not sure how it notifies you ahead of time for this). The tank in the Volt is sealed; most cars can’t have gas sitting for a year and still function well.

        • Yes you will need regular maintenance but less than a regular petrol car, because the Hybrid drive system has a simplified ICE system and because of other Hybrid advantages.

          I am in Australia, and we have a Prius V. Here we get service every 10,000 km or 6 months. The service is fixed price for 3 years (or 60,000km) at $130 – which is the lowest fixed price service rate from Toyota. (About $300 after fixed price, which is quite cheap for service in Australia)

          You get extended brake pad life because of the regenerative braking also.

          With any PHEV vehicle you have to watch for the Petrol seperating. A volt for instance will burn petrol every so often to not allow the petrol to stay in the vehicle too long.

          Also a Hybrid will usually heat the engine by running it so the Catalytic convertor functions correctly when the engine does kick in. The other Prius models do. I’m sure the PHEV will also.

          You can reduce the fuel burn by not letting the engine get too cool. Some people use engine block warmers, which are heaters that plug-in that are for very cold climates to prevent the engine freezing.

          I doubt you will get zero fuel consumption with any PHEV.

        • I have the earlier Prius plugin. Despite the fact that half my miles are EV miles, I still have to have regular servive every 5000miles, in order to keep the warranty alive. So yes I think routine maintenence is an issue for this vehicle class.

      • I’m seriously looking at a Volt for my next car, when my current all electric comes off lease. I’m hearing nothing but good things about it lately…

      • Depends on if its really 25 miles. If it is… Toyota swing and a miss.
        If its higher, a bit closer, maybe a ground ball, even a base hit.
        Then there is price. If Toyota comes in too high compared to Volt, then Toyota is getting beat.

  • I expect more mediocrity and disappointment from what used to be one of the green leaders in the automotive world. Honda and Toyota seem to insist on being overly conservative and slow in the EV space.

    • Amazing to think some could argue Toyota played a big role in starting this conversion to hybrid and electric efficient vehicles. Now they lag behind quite substantially… It seems so strange that I hope they are hiding something big and won’t be as far behind when it matters more (significant market share of EV’s)

  • Trying to overhype a very underwhelming old technology… it’s what some journalists are paid to do.

    • When your an OEM that never adopted an all electric vehicle of their own, you have painted yourself into a corner.

    • It’s hard to think of a case where the Prius vs the Volt is a fair fight, I agree.

      • I can readily think of several cards Toyota can play:
        pricing, interior space, reputation, fuel efficiency.

        (yes, I very much realize too that fuel efficiency matters little for PHEVs unless regularly driven long distances, but I’m sure Toyota will use this for marketing nonetheless).

        In my opinion, the PiP mostly competes with the regular Prius and Ford’s Energis. If Toyota only asks for a modest premium for the plug, the new PiP should sell well. But that may be too big an if

        • I hate to do it, since Toyota is so anti EV, but allow me to play devils advocate.
          The Prius gets 53 mpg. The Volt gets 40 ish.
          The Prius goes 35 miles? The Volt goes 50.

          I wouldn’t call that a slam dunk on either side.

          15 EV miles has to tip the difference against 53 mpg vs 43?
          It depends on use factors more than anything.

          Anyhow, I am glad Toyota is stepping up a bit. More significantly, this gen is Lithium. That improvement nudges them in the EV direction by the back door.

          Once PHEVs reach 200 mile range, Katy bar the door.
          Then they might even beat EVs.

          • I highly doubt we’ll ever see 200 mile range PHEVs. It would almost certainly be cheaper to put a 400 to 500 mile battery pack in the car.

            Actually I expect most EVs won’t get more than ~250 mile ranges. Perhaps 300. Just enough so that a single rapid charge would allow for a full day of driving.

          • My bad. Sorry. I should have put up a joke flag. My bit of PHEV vs BEV humor. IMO, once PHEVs hit 100 mile EV mode, party over, lights out for PHEV future.
            Heres another one. A 200 mile EV hauling a gas trailer for extra range.

          • You are discounting Volt’s performance to the lower side and the Prius to its upper side and then comparing them. Some Volt owners can drive EV mode for 105 miles and achieve 75 mpg in CS mode. A prius that is rated at 30 miles EV will often achieve only 20 miles EV and 40 mpg in freeway speed of 75 mph.

          • Read Lorens comment. Its 22 miles. Now we know. Very disappointing. Toyota skimped on battery. The Volt has about 3x the battery.

          • New Prius is 22 miles range. See Loren’s comment below.

          • Thanks. Looks like Toyota skimped on battery again. 22 miles probably means about 5 or 6 kwhr. The charge times on 120V are consistent with that.

          • A 35 mile range covers most of US daily drives. I wonder if 22 miles might cover most Japanese daily driving?

          • Good point. Japanese driving perspectives are different.

          • Ha!

          • The battery is 8.8 kWh, but they must be restricting the charge-discharge range to preserve lifetime. 120 MPGe is 3.6 miles/kWh, so full use of the battery would amount to 32 miles (probably the source of the 30+ mile range rumors). If you want 150,000 mile lifetime, that battery has to last 4700 cycles plus the regenerative braking. The Volt’s 18.4 kWh battery only needs 2600 cycles. This is probably why Toyota has to restrict their cycling depth more than GM.

          • Very conservative. And Prius have traditionally had excellent battery life in hybrid applications.

            Did I mention that using PHEV in EV mode lowers cycle life unless the mfr intentionally limits DoD?

          • Thanks. Thing is, a PHEV has to have both hybrid and EV characteristics. It can lose cycle life from either. It can lose either from fewer deeper discharges or more shallow discharges. The combo. Don’t believe Toyota and GM are any different that way, because the battery determines that. Big thing is Toyotas is too small. That could lead to too many deep discharges ruining life unless Toyota artificially restricts that with electronics.

          • I think they do restrict it, the EV/ICE choice is almost entirely by computer (I have the first gen plugin, this one looks like they doubled the battery ). I think I’ve only lost a few percent (maybe 5%) of bat capacity in three and a half years of use).

            DoD management shows up. A full charge only consumes 3KWhours not the 4.4 size of the battery, so the computer only
            gives about 2/3rds of the net capacity.

          • I think it also depends on the intended use. The Prius is a bit more like a utility vehicle, you can fold down the rear seats and transport lumber and other items you couldn’t fit in a Volt. But the Volt will be a more comfortable passenger car. Depending upon your lifestyle, and the presense or absense of other vehicles for those occasional uses you might rationally choose one or the other.

          • Yes. I drove a normal Prius for a while. Amazing mileage and good utility with that hatch. I like hatches.

      • Trunk space 🙂
        And that is a biggy for me – for long vacation trips. And the fold down seats give you a very large flat floor and high ceiling for big objects.

        • That extra 7 Cu. ft isn’t worth all the extra fuel I’d burn in a Prius

      • The Prius is sold in more nations.

        So by that measure Toyota is more serious than GM.

        • Don’t buy it. That’s mostly because the Prius has been on sale for 15 years, and it takes time to certify these things in 120 countries.

          • I don’t buy that either. It doesn’t take that long.

            The Prius PHEV isn’t sold in Australia and the Volt was.

            The Volt/Bolt are joint projects between Holden Australia and GM US, and yet the volt was priced here at $60,000 AU.

            At $60,000 nobody much was going to buy one. A relatively small car with not a huge EV range. I have seen I think 3 on the road, ever.

            And now the Volt has disappeared from the Holden site.

            Teslas i see rarely, but more often than the Volt. Hybrid Camrys are also quite popular. Taxis here are pretty much Hybrid Camrys or Prises now. Reason being the reliability and running cost.

            Priuses I see quite a lot of now. (not the PHEV of course)

            No I don’t think GM is yet taking EVs seriously.

            I think Toyota is taking them more seriously, as they have a fleet of decent size to support already.

            And the certification argument is nonsense, do you know how many different vehicles the auto industry certifies in many countries each year? That’s their business, and it’s handled by the local offices.

            The cars are manufactured to the laws of all the markets they wish to cover, then the vehicles are shipped to the local offices and put through certification. They can hanlde pretty much every market simultaneously.

            It takes a few months for all of the markets, not years per market.

          • So, you’re complaining that the Volt is too expensive in Australia, and therefore, GM doesn’t take EV’s seriously?

            That’s your entire argument?

            Yes, EV’s are more expensive. That’s the reality of battery tech as of right now. GM is making a killing on selling Volts, in fact, they took a loss on every car sold for the first little while, as battery tech got cheaper.

            Toyota on the other hand is just straight up avoiding making any real EVs, while GM has made the EV1, 2 generations of Volt, the Bolt, and the Spark EV, and has sold all of them to various degrees.

            Toyota isn’t taking EV’s seriously. They’re making hybrids that they try to pass off as PHEVs.

          • The Volt isn’t just too expensive in Australia, it’s too expensive in every overseas market where it has been sold.

            GM usually sells Opel and Holden models for prices quite comparable to what it charges in the US for comparable Chevrolets, after correcting for factors like logistics and taxes. The Volt is the only exception, which leads one to believe that it treats the Volt purely as a compliance car outside of its home market.

          • Weird that it’s priced more in other markets… Perhaps the complicated Volt is more expensive than they let on?

          • Could be. But that doesn’t explain why’d they’d be willing to swallow losses or at least measly profits in the US but not overseas.

            Logically, GM’s costs should drop more quickly if they sell more cars (as is the case with all emerging technologies). So why not go full steam ahead in all markets instead of just your home turf?

            Either way, it’s sad that the Volt never took off here. I now drive a small EV (a Renault Zoe), but my partner uses a larger CNG powered car as he has to drive much longer distances (and we also use it for holidays and so on). The Volt could have replaced the CNG car, something which no pure EV currently on the market could.

            However, with the Ampera priced as it was, no sane person would ever buy it. The only other truly interesting PHEV on the market is the Mitsubishi Outlander, but there’s no dealer nearby and it’s incredibly expensive (upfront, but also in use because its overpowered gasoline engine puts it in a high tax and insurance bracket).

          • And oddly the Outlander is better priced in Australia than the Volt was.

          • The volt is a bit overly complex, yes.

            Meanwhile the Prius range is concentrating on simplification, and is profitable and much cheaper.

            Obviously the saving in a smaller battery pack is huge.

            Now I also would prefer more battery.

            I would rather see the ICE go entirely.

            But don’t play GM vs Toyota games on this without considering there are advantages to a Prius.

            Also without acknowledging that GM is not really in the Mass Market EV/PHEV game yet. The Bolt may just put it there, but I’m not convinced.

          • It’s home market + Canada then?

          • Yes, it was developed as part of a deal with the Australian Government.

            The sale of the vehicle was to provide compliance to get them financial support to continue manufacturing operations here.

            So they didn’t care at all if they sold any – they got their money just by having it available for sale.

            Now that the financial support is off the table, the vehicle is not available for sale and manufacturing is being shut down.

            So they didn’t take the Volt seriously, they took the money seriously.

          • GM sold ~15k Volts in the US last year, and 2k so far (first 2 months) this year, all models included.
            Obviously better than Toyota which has stopped making the original PiP (sold ~4k in 1H 2015, and almost nothing since), but not exactly “a killing”. Ford sells more Energis, which have about the same electric range as the new PiP.

            GM is big, with a bit of a checkered history when it comes to its commitment to EVs (and no, I’m not going back as far as the EV1). The company ran anti-EV ads suggesting among other things that EV drivers would get stranded (unlike PHEVs); it even trademarked “range anxiety”. The Spark was strictly a compliance car.
            I’m hopeful that the Bolt will change all this.

          • GM marketed to their strengths in the Volt. That’s expected.

            And if the Spark EV is a compliance car, why is it sold in Canada?

          • “That’s your entire argument?” – No you avoided my take down of your argument and pretended the rest of what I said was all that I said.

            The pricing of the Volt in Australia is stupid. (OR was)

            Toyota is taking HVs more seriously & to some extent PHEVs- but as I have said elsewhere, not taking EVs & PHEVs seriously enough.

            Certification time is not the problem here. The vehicle is not on sale and was overpriced when it was on sale.

            As a result it didn’t sell well here, even though it was certified years ago.

            Now do you understand?

          • Toyota sells the Prius (both regular and PHEV) for a pretty normal price in all of its main markets. The car costs about as much in the US as here in Europe, after accounting for things like taxes.

            GM on the other hand charged ridiculous amounts for the Volt (launched here as the Opel Ampera). Then it acted surprised when sales were abysmal, cancelled the Ampera and then lobbied governments with the argument “oh look, there’s no demand for EVs in Europe. We’ve been saying that all along!”.

            It’s not just that it takes time to certify cars. GM just wasn’t seriously interested in selling EVs overseas when it launched the first generation Volt. It was okay a compliance car only.

          • The Volt has been sold for years. Enough time to be certified.

            It is no longer sold in Australia, but the Prius still is.

            Prius is also sold in India, the Volt never was.

      • Prius is a practical car that I can fit into that is priced well (here).

        The Volt is overpriced (here) and too small.

        A straight out Hybrid is still a pretty good option. PHEV not yet cutting it for me.

        Next car will be full electric and no fuel at all, as a lot of the advantages come from dropping the engine completely.

        Really loving our Prius V right now.

        Toyota is pushing Hydrogen, so they’re letting the side down on EV. Which is really sad.

        • It is definitely more expensive, but it’s operating costs are far less, for most drivers.

          • Not enough less to justify the price difference here.

            Price differential may not be as high in the US, but in the Australian market it’s huge. The Volt is (was) way overpriced for what it was here.

            I’m not convinced that Holden wanted to sell any here.

            Meanwhile there is quite a fleet of Priuses.

          • It’s about a 10k difference in price in Canada, but the base Volt is much better optioned, with heated seats, LCD screen, remote start, etc…

            The remainder you would typically make up in fuel savings in Canada, assuming you are a typical consumer, you charge at night, and gas returns to $1 / liter or higher.

            I definitely can’t see a $30k justification.

  • In a world with a 2nd-generation Volt, the Bolt, and the Model 3… Toyota better have done their homework this time…

    • Sadly, I expect this to be a minor evolutionary change, instead of a revolutionary change.

      • The Prius was revolutionary. The drivetrain is a stunning piece of technological advancement. The Volt depends on it.

        The revolution is now happening at Tesla. Everyone else is now trailing behind.

        • Not sure I agree. Yes, Tesla’s are cool, but the Bolt will be fairly comparable technology wise to the Model 3.

          Really,the only thing you can point out that’s substantially different in the tech is the Bolt doesn’t quick charge as fast.

          • You can’t know if it will be comparable.

            Hang off on comparisons till the launch before omparing anything.

            Rate of quick charge is an important technology to compare. The Supercharger network is a significant thing to buyers.

  • No matter how hard Toyota tries, they will not come close to the Tesla announcement on the Model 3 scheduled for 8 days later

  • Well, I saw the reveal. 22 miles all electric. How thrilling…. And now, how much does it cost?

  • Thanks Loren. 22 miles v 11; 8.8kWh v 4.4. Sounds like they’ve just doubled the number of cells…

    • Yeah, when tripling would have been a better move.

      • Cost/weight/range tradeoff

        It’s not simple for anyone.

    • Better than nothing, but it doesn’t seem like Toyota is trying very hard. Playing with hydrogen and sticking with regular hybrids until there is real demand fro EVs/PHEVs. Makes financial sense today, but the question will become in several years, if they are behind can they plan catch up quickly enough.

  • The range is definitely a bit disappointing. However, the efficiency is impressive. Toyota is choosing to spend more on efficiency and less on the battery. It would be interesting to see how the tradeoff compares for a typical driver’s trip distribution.

    So interesting, in fact, that I decided to do it. Using the trip distriubtion in Figure 1 of , I calculated the total electric and gasoline miles assuming 1 full charge per day. The total miles per year from that figure is about 12,240. Here are the results:

    22 mile range (2017 Prius Prime):
    Electric miles: 4825 (39%)
    Gas miles: 7415 (61%)

    53 mile range (2016 Chevy Volt):
    Electric miles: 8382 (68%)
    Gas miles: 3858 (32%)

    Using the two cars’ claimed MPG ratings (Prius Prime: 120 MPGe, 52+ MPG gas; Volt: 106 MPGe, 42 MPG gas), the total fuel consumption is:

    Prius Prime: 1343 kWh + 143 gallons
    Volt: 2641 kWh + 92 gallons

    Therefore, the Prius uses an extra 51 gallons of gasoline and saves 1298 kWh of electricity. The breakeven price ratio of gasoline to electricity is 26 kWh/gal (e.g. $0.10/kWh and $2.60 / gallon). Cheaper electricity or more expensive gas favors the Volt; cheaper gas or more expensive electricity favors the Prius Prime.

    From a greenhouse gas perspective, the breakeven CO2 emission rate (ignoring upstream and methane because I don’t have all day to calculate this stuff) is 768 lbs CO2 / MWh. US average is 1137 lbs/MWh, and California is 650 lbs/MWh (eGRID 2012). Marginal emission rates based on time of use are too complicated for me, but a valid concern. Lower emissions favor the Volt. Higher favors the Prius.

    For perspective, a 35 MPG combined Honda Civic would burn 350 gallons of gasoline.

    Toyota should be commended for the overall efficiency of their design. However, given cheap electricity and cheap batteries, their decision to invest more in efficiency and less in raw battery size may prove to be a bad strategy.

    • I’m thinking they were limited by the volume available for the battery. The Prius has a “secret” under rug storage slot in the back. The first gen plugin sacrifices
      half the volume of it for the battery. Double up on the battery, and they likely took the entire compartments volume for it. To go bigger than that battery size wise, probably requires a redesign of the chassis in order to make room for it.

      The Volt (and Leaf), were designed for a biggish battery from day one, that’s probably the deciding factor here. Now the Prius has more -and more usable storage volume, then either, and that’s probably at least in part because of the small battery.

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