The Toyota Motor Corporation, which leads the world’s automakers in sales of hybrid-electric vehicles, announced Sunday night that it would build its first plug-in hybrid by 2010.
The move puts Toyota in direct competition with General Motors, which has announced plans to sell its own plug-in hybrid vehicle, the Chevrolet Volt, sometime around 2010, nytimes.com reports.
A plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) is a hybrid vehicle with batteries that can be recharged by connecting a plug to an electric power source. It shares the characteristics of both conventional hybrid electric vehicles and battery electric vehicles, having an internal combustion engine and batteries for power.
Most PHEVs on the road today are passenger cars, but there are also PHEV versions of commercial passenger vans, utility trucks, school buses, motorcycles, scooters, and military vehicles. PHEVs are sometimes called grid-connected hybrids, gas-optional hybrids, or GO-HEVs.
As of September 2007, plug-in hybrid passenger vehicles are not yet in production. However, Toyota, General Motors, Ford, and Chinese automaker BYD Auto have announced their intention to introduce production PHEV automobiles. BYD expects to introduce their PHEV-60 sedan in the second half of 2008. Toyota Prius and General Motors plug-ins are expected in 2010.
Conversion kits and services are available to convert production model hybrid vehicles to PHEVs. Most PHEVs on the road in the U.S. are conversions of models from 2004 or later of the Toyota Prius hybrid car, which have had plug-in charging added and their electric-only range extended.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the 2008 Prius is the most fuel efficient car sold in the U.S. According to the UK Department for Transport, the Prius is tied with the diesel MINI Cooper D as the second least CO2-emitting vehicle behind the Volkswagen Polo 1.4 TDI.
The Prius has won several awards from magazines, engineering groups, and consumer groups.