2011 Toyota Prius

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2011 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid — Flash Drive

By Staff of MSN Autos

At first glance, the Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid seems like a bad idea. The extra batteries add a lot of weight and will inevitably raise ownership costs, yet the Prius offers only 13 miles of all-electric operation. The extra batteries also take up a bunch of space in the trunk. The trunk floor is raised so much higher on the plug-in Prius that a single suitcase will extend above the retractable screen over the hatchback cargo area. But if urban charging stations continue to proliferate the plug-in Prius may become perfect for commuting or shopping. It charges very quickly, so a trip to the mall could provide enough time to refresh the batteries and drive 13 miles home on all-electric power. If electric cars become popular enough so that charging stations become commonplace, the plug-in Prius may be a very smart offering from Toyota. But that is a big if. – Paul Hagger

The Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid is an interesting variation on the top-selling hybrid, with the added twist that it can be plugged in to charge the battery, and when the battery is fully charged it will run in electric-only mode. With a full charge I was able to go about 12 miles before it kicked over to standard hybrid mode. I didn't have quite enough time to determine if this car would really be an advantage over a standard Prius because I typically drive 30 to 45 miles per day. I can see its benefit for a driver who travels around 12 miles per day because most of the driving would be under electric power. The disadvantage is that once the Prius plug-in switches to the gasoline-electric hybrid mode, the fuel economy is less than a standard Prius due to the added battery weight. In electric mode the plug-in doesn't feel as peppy as other electric cars I have driven, again probably because of the added weight. Under hybrid power I found myself switching to power mode to improve drivability, which also reduces efficiency. – Mike Meredith

The Prius plug-in hybrid is a great idea for a specific driving scenario, but otherwise its value is questionable. A full charge is obtained in just 90 minutes on a 220-volt charge, and that gets you about 14 miles of electric-only driving. I live 13 miles from work, so I was able to travel to and from work on electric-only for the most part, and there was no range anxiety, as the plug-in turns into your basic Prius hybrid once the battery is depleted. But there's no performance to speak of in electric-only mode, and getting up to freeway speed is a lengthy process. If you accelerate at full throttle, the gas engine will start to help out with the car's power needs, and at speeds above 60 mph, the engine stays on, again, like a regular Prius hybrid. It's expected that in hybrid mode the plug-in will not match a regular Prius' fuel economy, because there are several hundred pounds of extra batteries in this version. So unless you have a short drive between available charging stations, and getting from point A to point B as economically as possible is the primary requirement of your vehicle, the Prius plug-in may not be the right car for you. – Perry Stern

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BB05 - 7/25/2014 2:02:37 AM