Toyota announced December 14 that it intends to introduce plug-in versions of its popular Prius model into the United States, Japan and Europe in the first half of 2010 ahead of a mass rollout.

The brand will allocate 230 Prius units for leasing in Japan, 150 to the United States and 200 to Europe, with 100 of those going to Strasbourg in France. Initially for use by governments and businesses, Toyota plans to use the feedback to refine the model "with an aim to begin sales in the tens of thousands of units" to the general public in two years.

The Prius Plug-in Hybrid is the first Toyota model to use lithium-ion battery technology, which allows faster charging (100 minutes on an AC 200V charge) and an approximate range of 23 kilometers (14.3 miles) on a fully charged battery in electric vehicle (EV) mode. When the battery is depleted, the Prius returns to conventional gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle (HV) propulsion from a 1.8 liter engine.

Toyota's move marks a significant step forward for the adoption of electric cars, particularly given the Prius's dominance of the green car market. Originally introduced in 1997, the Prius was the world's first mass-produced hybrid vehicle and has remained a best-seller ever since.

In an unrelated announcement, Toyota also confirmed that it would unveil a new dedicated hybrid concept at the North American International Motor Show in Detroit on January 11, 2010.

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