- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 13, 2009

TOKYO | Toyota showed its new plug-in hybrid Monday, available for leasing this month in Japan, the U.S. and Europe, and promised the green vehicle for sale to regular consumers by 2011 at an “affordable” price.

The plug-in Prius is the first from Toyota Motor Corp. packed with a more powerful battery called lithium-ion that’s different from the batteries used in Prius hybrids on roads today. A plug-in is even friendlier to the environment than the regular Prius because it travels longer as an electric vehicle.

About 600 of the vehicles will be introduced in Japan, the U.S. and Europe — 230 in Japan, 150 in the U.S. and 200 in Europe — over the first half of 2010 starting this month, the company said.

Toyota’s plug-in travels 23.4 kilometers as an electric vehicle on a single charge, and gets 57 kilometers a liter in mileage. When the charge runs out, a plug-in starts running like a regular hybrid, ensuring drivers won’t run out of power on the road.

Toyota declined to give a leasing price, saying that it was being set with customers.

Executive Vice President Takeshi Uchiyamada said he could not give an estimate for the vehicle’s price when it goes on sale in 2011.

“I can only say it will be a price that will have potential buyers seeing a plug-in as a viable option,” he said.

Uchiyamada said many hurdles remain for electric vehicles to become widespread, including limited cruising range and cost for the battery, making a plug-in still the best practical option.

He said Toyota was waiting until 2011 before commercial sales to gain feedback from users during the leasing period.

“We have been working on developing efficient powertrains to be able to use oil as efficiently as possible,” he said. “But many hurdles remain for alternative fuels.”

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