Toyota Motor Corp said yesterday it has developed a plug-in hybrid vehicle for public road tests in Japan and plans tests for the US and Europe.
Plug-in hybrids, whose batteries can be recharged via a standard wall outlet, are also being developed by other major automakers like US-based General Motors Corp and Ford Motor Co.
Like most hybrids now on sale, which are powered by electric motors and gasoline engines, the new model -- called Toyota Plug-in HV -- also gets recharged by converting energy from braking and when the wheels spin.
But the advantage of the plug-in variety is that it runs longer on electricity than regular hybrids. Electric cars use no gas and emit no pollution.
Toyota is the first manufacturer to receive government approval to conduct tests for a plug-in hybrid on Japanese public roads, it said, and will collect information about the tests from eight plug-in vehicles for the government about emissions and fuel efficiency.
Masatami Takimoto, the Toyota executive in charge of technology, declined to say when Toyota will bring a plug-in hybrid to market. Innovation in battery technology is needed, he said.
The Plug-in HV displayed yesterday runs on the same nickel metal hydride battery as the Prius and has a cruising range of 13km on electricity. Takimoto said tests will help in deciding the range consumers want.
The maximum speed of Plug-in HV is 100kph as an electric vehicle. The batteries require about 1.5 hours to recharge at 200 volts and three or four hours at 100 volts, and the company recommends recharging overnight when power costs are cheaper in Japan.
In a short test-ride for reporters after the news conference, the vehicle zoomed along a course as a quiet electric car as long as the driver didn't accelerate too quickly. But when the driver suddenly stepped on the gas pedal, the car effortlessly switched on its gas engine to keep the ride going smoothly.
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