Toyota to sell electric hybrids in 2011

Toyota took the wraps off its new plug-in hybrid today, promising the ecological vehicle would go on sale in 2011 at an “affordable” price.

The plug-in Prius is the first from Toyota, packed with a more powerful battery called lithium-ion, which is different from those used in Prius hybrids on roads today.

A plug-in is more ecological than the regular Prius because it travels longer as an electric vehicle.

About 600 of the vehicles will be introduced for lease in Japan, the US and Europe – 230 in Japan, 150 in the US and 200 in Europe – starting this month, over the first half of 2010, the company said.

Toyota’s plug-in travels 14.5 miles as an electric vehicle on a single charge, and travels 35.4 miles on a litre of fuel. When the charge runs out, a plug-in starts running like a regular hybrid, ensuring drivers will not run out of power on the road.

Toyota did not give a leasing price, or an estimate for its price when it goes on sale in 2011.

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

He said many hurdles remained for electric vehicles to become widespread, including limited cruising range and cost for the battery.

“We have been working on developing efficient powertrains to be able to use oil as efficiently as possible,” he said.

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

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