Is 12 miles enough?

Earlier this week, various reports surfaced detailing Toyota’s plans to release the 2010 Prius as PHEV, but only to fleet customers. The range? A shade over 12 miles (20 km).
While it’s good to see Toyota going towards a Plug in Prius, it’s a little frustrating to see a small PHEV range when compared to the commercial and DIY conversion options out there for the current Prius. It’s also a little frustrating to see that Toyota only plans to sell the PHEV prius to fleets rather than individuals. Is that the right choice? And is 12 miles EV only range enough?

Is the 2010 PHEV prius going to be a hit with the fleet market?
Is the 2010 PHEV prius going to be a hit with the fleet market?

Photo by Swimfinfan, reproduced under creative commons license.

Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? It’s brilliant that Toyota have finally announced that they will produce another plug in vehicle. It’s obviously a shame that that vehicle isn’t a full-EV like the much lamented RAV4EV, but I guess it’s a step forwards from the “You never have to plug it in” mentality that the Prius brand has been plagued by for the last ten years. A plug is better than no plug.
But hang on, let’s examine that 12 mile range again. Unless the world suddenly produces electric charging points at every shopping center, office car park and mini mall then most people will struggle to survive a day with a 12 mile range. Those of us with converted 2004-2009 Model Prius know that ideally an EV only range of between 15 and 20 miles is the minimum for really ultra-high fuel economy and ‘most of the time’ EV only motoring around town. My own, cheaply converted PHEV project only gets between 12 and 15 miles on a charge in EV only mode. There is rarely a day when I don’t wish for a better range. Sure, plug is better than no plug, but a small range under 20 miles can really impact on a usual day’s fuel-efficient driving after those magic 20 miles are up.
There’s no mention of cost to produce or fleet sell on the 2010 PHEV Prius, but I assume that the cost savings of having a small PHEV pack will make it more affordable to the fleet market. That may be a good thing. After all, fleet managers are always looking for ways to save money, both on car purchase and on fuel costs. A fleet market seems like a good place to test the 2010 PHEV.
But woah! Hang on a second!
Fleet car drivers are notorious for treating their cars badly. They drive them hard and fast, never really taking into consideration the health of the car. It’s a comapny car – so that’s okay. Can a plug in vehicle be treated badly? If experience with fleet EVs and PHEVs in the past shows, they either get completely trashed by drivers who won’t or don’t know how to look after them, or treated so roughly in driving that fuel economy flies out the window with everything else.
Give the 2010 PHEV models to the public. Let them help you decide on what battery pack to use, Toyota. Let them figure out what the bad and good points are of owning a PHEV. Don’t give them to an unrealistic test fleet.
In the meantime, perhaps the best way to owning a PHEV prius is to find a used 2004-2009 and do your own. At anything from 15-30 mile EV only range certainly all of the current PHEV conversion options, combined with a decently priced second hand Prius, could work out cheaper than a new 2010 model only fleet owners can get. Toyota only need improve the range of their factory 2010 PHEV prius by ten miles for it to suddenly seem a much more realistic proposition for anyone wanting to buy one. Until that day, I’m going to stick with my converted one. At 92.5 miles per gallon my car is doing pretty well with a simple DIY conversion.
C’mon Toyota. Let’s make the 2010 PHEV available to everyone. And let’s bring the range up a little, eh?

6 Comments

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  1. i think that Toyota is looking for ways to keep costs down while maintaining reliability. that means a pack large enough to handle the range specified. i have an EV with an advertised range of 30 miles, but if i drive it that far, the batteries are discharged too much which contributes heavily to premature pack failure. so i realistically have a usable 20 miles in good weather. getting EV's off the ground requires a price that is mainstream and systems like "A Better Place" that institutes a grid of public charging stations will help to double the range. Requiring employers to provide charging stalls, etc all this helps to not put the onus on a single entity, in the case, the auto manufacturer to provide 100% of the solution. we dont really have the luxury of waiting for batteries to catch up to the transportation needs we have, so we need to compromise on that need, build an infrastructure to support that need, all of which can and should be done now. battery tech will come, but its not needed first.

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  2. 12 miles is unacceptable with the battery tech and choices out there right now such as Li Ion or LiFePO4 or NiMH. Toyota can and should make a minimum 10 kW/h pack out of either one of those and it'll only be the size of 2 large desktop computer cases side-by-side. Also, with the low drag coefficient of a Prius it'll easily get you 20 or 30 miles before hitting 30% DOD and needing recharging/switching to gas mode. There must be a more logical or financial reason why Toyota are short-selling their customers in the range department. It's certainly not the lack of battery technology. It's very odd.

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  3. Darell from evnut.com said in an interview on evcast that Toyota doesn't have anyone to compete against but themselves right now. The Prius is already considered the best hybrid, why make it sooo much better when you can use the time, money and effort to bolster some other market segment. Maybe even a pure EV? One can hope. Actually, it might be interesting to learn if having a bigger battery will actually bolster gas mileage significantly. Since gas engines work most efficiently when warmed up, you might run into the point of diminishing returns because if the gas engine is used so little, it will always be cold and your mileage will suffer again.

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  4. Agreed. Even with the pack I've got in my Prius (two additional original batteries in parallel with the stock one) the price is so small to expand the original pack by 300% to 3.5KWH that I can't imagine why Toyota would want to bother wish such a small pack at the factory. 10KWH would only add a tiny bit to the price if it was mass-produced, which of course, all Toyotas are…

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  5. I don’t believe Toyota’s Prius C in the cociarmmel or the spy photo will be what the production model will look like next year. It would be nice if the cociarmmel version could be adapted but if they are pricing it below 21k the front end styling alone would be half the price of the car. I believe the spy photos are a decoy and it is a systems test car for features in the smaller Prius. Looks more like the Yaris I already see on the street. I’ll be in the market for a small hybrid next year but if ends up looking like the spy photo it better perform better than it looks or forget it! lol

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