Plug-in Prius a prime opportunity

A version of the latest Prius that enables a function beyond the regular edition – ability to properly roam as an electric car – will soon be on New Zealand roads.


ADVANCES delivered by the latest plug-in version of the new Prius make it much more appealing for local sale, the distributor says.

Toyota New Zealand has described the Prius Prime rolled out at the New York motor show today as being a halo car it is keen to place as a technology leader for a hybrid push that will soon include a Corolla petrol-electric and also has firm hold within the Lexus lineup.

The Palmerston North-domiciled market leader has secured a Prime for evaluation – a process that also occurred with the PHEV edition of the previous Prius – but is already much keener to get it into the showroom.

TNZ general manager Spencer Morris has indicated the Prime presents huge improvement over the old-gen car which TNZ determined was too expensive to carry here, including being much more efficient and quicker to recharge.

"The powertrain advances over the previous model are tremendous and we are excited about the prospect of selling this model in New Zealand,” Morris says.

Clearly it will be a halo product which is obviously on our wish list but right now we don't have firm launch timing.

"The powertrain advances over the previous model are tremendous and we are excited about the prospect of selling this model in New Zealand.”

He said dialogue about the car has begun with Toyota Japan. Availability was an issue and, apparently, price is also key.

"Prius Prime will have a more expensive battery and, as we have seen with many other brands, it will carry a substantial price premium.

“As such the market is quite small, and in fact we've seen others come and go because of this.

“Therefore we are not rushing into plug-in sales just yet. Instead we are taking a measured approach which will begin with an evaluation unit. Naturally we can't wait to try it.

"Meanwhile we remain the hybrid leader with a range of Prius models, Camry, and soon the Corolla. This is where the real sales volume is and clearly what customers want."

Like the previous Prius PHEV, the Prime eschews the standard car’s nickel hydride battery set for litium ion batteries that provide a much better ability to roam on electric impetus alone.

Toyota claims car is the most efficient plug-in hybrid to date, with a cited economy figure of 2.0 litres per 100km. That makes it 26 percent more thrifty than the old car.

The plug-in charging feature also an emissions-free top speed of 135kmh and a range of 35km on pure battery impetus. The latter is still lower than the electric-only ability of a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV and is well short of that achieved by the BMW i3 range-extender, but much greater than for a regular Prius. Combined battery and petrol range is estimated at 965km.

The 8.8kWh battery can be fully recharged in about two hours using a 240-volt socket or 5.5 hours on the American 110-volt system.

Toyota's Synergy Drive system has been given a significant upgrade with its first “dual-motor” that allows the generator to temporarily act as a motor in parallel with the main drive motor for boosted acceleration.

As with the standard Prius, combustion power comes from a 1.8-litre Atkinson cycle petrol four-cylinder with a thermal efficiency figure of 40 percent.

The Prime stands out from the regular Prius in having a sharper nose with LED headlights, four on each side. The back end has a new tail-light arrangement.

The new model also delivers a carbon-fibre hatch and aluminium bonnet and greater use of high-strength steels.

The interior also differs, notably with the central touch screen. The US-market model has a vertical 11.6-inch high definition display. In North America this runs the Entune multimedia system not available here. Entune provides applications and services such as satellite radio, Doppler weather updates, Gracenote and Pandora.

Smartphone connectivity is available for both Apple and Android devices, along with Bluetooth and USB connection, as is wireless charging.

Safety and driver assistance systems include self-parking, eight airbags, reversing camera, autonomous braking, lane departure assistance, adaptive cruise control, self-dipping headlights, blind spot monitoring and rear-cross traffic alert.