Toyota has announced a new plug-in version of its Prius hybrid. Plug-in technology allow a hybrid's batteries to be charged from the mains like those on a straight electric car. The main benefit compared with a standard hybrid is that a plug-in hybrid can spend a far greater proportion of the time running in electric-only mode, which produces fewer tail-pipe emissions – just 59g/km, according to Toyota. One spur to this long-expected development is likely to have been the forthcoming arrival of GM's similarly-sized Chevrolet Volt, which will run mainly on electric power but use an internal combustion engine as a back-up range-extender.
The plug-in Prius, which is the first Toyota to use lithium-ion battery technology, will initially be available only in limited numbers as part of a leasing programme. Toyota will deliver 600 of the cars during the first half of 2010 of which only 200 will come to Europe. Just 20 have been allocated to the UK, although sales to the general public in large volumes are expected to follow within two years.