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The current-generation Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid will not come to Australia after a local trial of five vehicles found the electric-only cruising range was not enough to meet local acceptance.

The Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid, which weighs 1420kg, a mere 50kg more than the standard Prius, has gone on sale in Japan and the US, and will be introduced to Europe next month.

Australia participated in a global trial of pre-production plug-in vehicles with five models clocking more than 100,000km in local real-world testing. The plug-in hybrids, which use newer-generation lithium-ion batteries instead of nickel-metal-hydride units like those in the standard Prius, take just 90 minutes to charge and offer up to 25km of EV-only driving range.

Speaking with CarAdvice at Toyota’s flagship Le Rendezvous centre in Paris, Toyota Australia’s corporate manager of product planning, Greg Gardner, said “feedback from the Australian trial is that even better performance – especially in terms of EV-only range – is required for wider acceptance in the local market”.

In France, where more than 60 per cent of daily commuters travel fewer than 30km, the Prius plug-in makes sense, but given the different demands of our market, Toyota Australia has shifted its focus to the next-generation Prius, which will arrive in 2015 with a plug-in variant.

“Our attention has turned to the next-generation plug-in hybrid,” Gardner said. “We believe that by 2015 plug-in hybrid technology will have evolved further.”

The next-generation Toyota Prius and Prius plug-in hybrid are set to use a superior battery and new technology that will see a big reduction in COemissions (down to around 50g/km) as well as better fuel efficiency and extended EV-only range for the plug-in. Toyota is actively conducting R&D into future battery technology with BMW.

According to Gardner, the next-generation Prius plug-in will undercut the Euro 6 emission standards by a remarkable 98 per cent. The plug-in system will also be used in other Toyota vehicles yet to be announced.

Toyota sees a three-pillar approach to its alternate fuel strategy and is actively working on electric, hybrid and fuel cell vehicles, with the first electric-only Toyota set to go on sale in Europe, Japan and the US later this year. The Japanese giant has also confirmed its first hydrogen fuel cell-powered passenger car will go on sale in 2015.




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