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Toyota in Japan plans to start mass-producing plug-in hybrid vehicles in 2012, with a projected first-year output of about 20,000 to 30,000 units, the Nikkei business daily reported.

Reuters Newsagency quotes Toyota as saying it would start leasing 500 plug-in cars globally by the end of this year, primarily for government and corporate use, but has not said when it would commercialise them.

Toyota’s plug-in hybrids would fan competition against General Motors’ Chevrolet Volt plug-in, which can also be charged at home through an electric socket

Chevrolet Volt in Testing

GM is aiming to launch the Volt, a showcase vehicle for its effort to reinvent itself after filing for bankruptcy last month, by the end of 2010 and plans to have a total 14 hybrid models in production by 2012.

Plug-ins can be cleaner than regular hybrids as they can run purely on electricity, but the need for more batteries makes them expensive.

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Toyota wants to price its plug-in hybrids at a comparable price to Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV all-electric car, which debuts this month to fleet customers in Japan at 4.59 million yen (US$47,800) before government subsidies, the Nikkei said, without citing sources.

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Toyota’s new Prius petrol-electric hybrid costs less than half that, starting at 2.05 million yen in Japan.

Toyota’s plug-ins will be able to run 20-30kilometres, much less than the 160km range of the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, on battery power alone at full charge, the paper said.

Toyota has said lithium-ion batteries developed and produced by its joint venture with Panasonic EV Energy Co will power the car.

A Toyota spokesman said the company could not comment on future product plans.






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