Driving refinement, exhilarating performance, more environmental consciousness, and even cooler colors are promises of Toyota’s all-new Prius PHEV, the Z-Grade. The additional model adds to Toyota’s most successful hybrid will hit showrooms in Japan starting March 15 (JPN time).
There is a differentiation between this new Z-grade and the Prius HEV launched earlier in the year. The pure hybrid version was introduced to the Japanese market on January 10 and a week later to the North American market, deliveries of which are still coming in.
Toyota calls it the “Hybrid Reborn” concept. It is that process of “kaizen,” or continuous improvement, where the Prius of three months ago has evolved into an even more exhilarating package. Not that the HEV variant isn’t stunning. It took seven years before Toyota made a major design change to the rather unelectrifying previous generation Prius.
The Z-grade adds to that excitement which Toyota describes as “a design inspiring love at first sight and captivating driving performance to its core strength as an environmentally friendly car.”
For the Z grade, performance is the emphasis. That is reflected first in the available colors — the main hue is a bright golden yellow. Sporty 19-inch aluminum wheels are exclusive to this model. To add to that sporty appeal is the metallic silver lower grille and smoky gray tail lamps that appear on every color variant.
To achieve this “exhilarating, and dynamic performance,” the new Prius PHEV outputs 164 kW (223 PS) of power with Toyota’s 5th generation hybrid system, which combines a compact, high-capacity drive battery, high-output drive motor, and high-efficiency gasoline engine. It is front-wheel drive, set up with a continuously variable transmission.
The Z-grade applies its newly developed 2.0-liter M20A-FXS in-line 4-cylinder engine to run the Plug-in Hybrid System. The setup produces twice as much power as the previous powerplant — achieving an acceleration of 0-100 km/h in 6.7 seconds. All that performance comes with better fuel efficiency of between 26.0 km/L- 30.1 km/L depending on wheel size.
The BEV driving distance is 87 km with 19-inch tires and 105 km with 17-inch tires, with the 105 km representing an improvement of 75% percent compared to the previous model.
The Prius Z-Grade PHEV is equipped with Regeneration Boost, Toyota’s version of regenerative braking, which is useful on mountain roads and in other situations that require regular switching between acceleration and braking. When set, this function provides stronger regenerative braking force than normal to deliver responsive driving performance while reducing the frequency of switching between the accelerator and brake pedals.
It also has a solar charging system option that can provide enough power to drive up to 1,250 km per year in BEV mode. Highly efficient solar panels on the vehicle’s roof are useful while the car is baking in parking lots where there are no charging stations, or even during power outages from disasters — as long as the sun is shining.
Electric power generated from the solar panel is used to charge the drive battery, with the system not only supplying electricity for driving but for air conditioning and other functions as well. The system also supplies the auxiliary battery system when driving to reduce drive battery consumption.
That leads to an all-new feature unique to the PHEV version, which is the external power supply mode. Like Nissan’s Vehicle-to-Grid or Vehicle-to-House technologies, the PHEV Prius can use electricity stored in the battery to provide an external power supply for outdoor, leisure, and other activities.
The more resilient HEV external power supply mode uses both the battery and the engine to provide power for up to five full days with a full tank of gas; thus the car can be used as a power supply during blackouts, disasters, and other emergencies. Battery power is consumed up to a set level as the engine starts to recharge it. The system has an external power socket providing 1,500 W (100 VAC). Since the car comes with an outlet inside, an external electric power supply protective attachment comes as standard. This allows the uses of a power cord to run from the car with the door windows closed to prevent rain and insects from getting in the car when in use.
Toyota insists on its wide range of electrification systems, with the plug-in hybrid as an important powertrain option toward carbon neutrality.
Target production is 450 units monthly, just above 10% of the production of the regular Prius at 4,300 units per month at Toyota’s Tsutsumi Plant. Toyota has yet to respond to queries from CleanTechnica about the availability of the car in North America, though sources say that current production is focused on right-hand drive models.
“Toyota is working on all-round development of electric vehicles, including PHEVs, and hydrogen engines to achieve carbon neutrality and provide a range of options to customers around the world…As a result, the new Prius PHEV delivers both enjoyable driving and environmental performance in a car that many customers will continue to cherish as their car of choice for generations to come,” Toyota said in a press statement.
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