Toyota’s dramatically redesigned 2017 Prius is expected to be a significant player in the electric vehicle (EV) market. The company’s plug-in version of the fourth-generation Prius, dubbed the Prius Prime, will offer an all-electric “EV Mode,” which is sure to grab the attention of drivers seeking to maximize their use of electricity. Previously, the vehicle selected the mix of gasoline and electricity based on a variety of factors, with gasoline kicking in at about 62 MPH or less; in the EV Mode, the Prius Prime will be able to drive as fast as 84 MPH using only electricity.
According to Toyota, the Prius Prime will deliver the world’s best hybrid and plug-in fuel economy (120+ MPGe), and the best driving range (600+ miles). The sales target is 60,000 per year, and is expected to be roughly split between Japan and the U.S. This target is notably aggressive because 60,000 nearly equals the cumulative sales of earlier editions of the plug-in Prius from 2012 through 2016.
The Prius Prime is a significant stepping stone for Toyota as it prepares for a plug-in future. Referring to the 60,000 unit target, chief engineer Koji Toyoshima said:
Going forward, there will be much broader competition in plug-in hybrids. We have to sell this much. Otherwise, we will not be able to win in the next round.”
In revisiting the plug-in vehicle’s features, Toyota targeted three areas for improvement:
- Longer electric-only cruising range;
- Clearer differentiation from the standard Prius; and
- Easier battery charging.
The 2017 model carries an 8.8 kWh lithium battery with a range of 22 miles. While this range is shorter than that of plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles such as the Chevrolet Volt, Toyota explains that its research shows that more than 50% of Americans can get to work and back home using only the Prime’s battery. For those drivers who can charge at work, the number jumps to almost 80%.
To distinguish the Prime from the non-plug-in Prius, Toyota’s designers gave the Prime unique styling that is both innovative and modern. For example, the front-end contains futuristic quad LEDs and daytime running lamps . . .
. . . and around back the spoiler is illuminated with a techy LED glow.
On the inside, optional equipment includes an 11.6-inch HD touch screen that displays all of your important information in one place. This screen features intuitive finger controls with the ability to swipe, just like on your phone. Other available features include a color heads-up display, premium JBL Audio, and Qi wireless charging.
Solar panels for charging the battery in the absence of a plug will be available in the U.S. following regulatory approval relating to the safety of the rooftop reinforced glass panels.
The Prius Prime is expected to arrive in Toyota dealerships worldwide this fall.