Did you know that Toyota was the first manufacturer to bring a plug-in hybrid vehicle to the market with the original Prius Plug-in, launched in 2012? With the launch of the second-generation Prius Plug-in, Toyota is reinforcing its position as the segment’s originator and innovator with five important technological firsts.
Take a look beneath the svelte bodywork to see how each of these advances contribute to the Prius Plug-in’s remarkable overall performance.
Prius Plug-in is the first mass-produced car to use solar charging as a
means of delivering motive power for the vehicle. This means that if you
have to park somewhere there is no charging network, or if an
electrical blackout shuts down the grid, you can still charge your
battery using the power of the sun.
Prius Plug-in launches a world-first gas-injection heat pump air
conditioning system that runs independently of the engine to avoid
compromising efficiency. The pressurised system uses a traditional
network of heat exchanger, internal condenser and evaporator to convert
coolant to gas and generate a change in temperature.
The new Prius Plug-in is the first mass-produced car to be fitted with a lightweight CFRP (carbon fibre reinforced plastic) tailgate. Adopting this extremely strong composite material for the internal framework of the rear hatch has reduced weight by 40 per cent compared to conventional aluminium.
Depending on weather conditions, solar charging has the potential to increase the EV range by up to three miles a day, or around 400 miles a year in UK city traffic. The system also works on the move, adding extra power to electronics such as satellite navigation, lights and automatic windows, increasing hybrid system efficiency by two to three per cent.
What is unique about this set-up, however, is the way that some of the gas created by this phase change is injected back into the compressor to effectively ‘turbocharge’ the coolant flow rate and heating capacity. So effective is this new system that it can heat the cabin without starting the engine, even when outside temperatures are as low as -10°C.
Another benefit of CFRP is its high-quality surface finish, which removes the need for additional internal trimming and has expanded rearward visibility by 6.4 degrees over the outgoing model.
Battery output decreases in cold weather, so Toyota has introduced a heating element under each of the five stacks of 19 cells within the new lithium-ion traction battery. This minimises the impact of cold weather on the EV driving range, ensuring full power is available from the start while reducing the need of assistance from the petrol engine.
Prius Plug-in features Toyota’s first hybrid powertrain with a dual motor drive system. In normal use, the power control unit directs battery voltage to the primary electric motor. However, when maximum EV output is needed, the PCU engages a special one-way gear within the transaxle that allows the traditional hybrid system generator to function as a second electric motor.
In view of this new system, the Prius Plug-in now allows you to set a charging timer so the battery is optimised for the start of your daily commute.
This increases EV torque by around 83 per cent, delivering better acceleration, more engaging performance and a maximum EV speed of 84mph. It also reduces the need for the petrol engine to cut in and provide extra power.