For 2012, the Toyota Prius hybrid is due for a greener shade of fuel-efficiently with the addition of a plug-in variant. 160 prototypes Prius PHEVs are currently taking part in a U.S. demonstration program, and we were lucky enough to snag one for a first hand look.

Elaborate Plug-in the decals were the primary way we could tell our tester from any other third-generation Prius. More subtile is the addition of a second fuel filler door. The new one on the left front fender is the all important electrical charge port.

The plug-in hybrid drivetrain is essentially the same. A 1.8-liter, 98-horsepower Atkinson cycle four-cylinder is paired with a permanent-magnet electric motor.

But, we did note a little extra zing, thanks to a lithium ion battery that is considerably larger-and runs at a higher voltage-than the standard Prius’ nickel-metal hydride unit.

As a result, on 110 volt household current, the PHEV Prius is charged and ready in as little as three hours. That time drops to 90 minutes on 220 volts.

While the regular Prius has an electric only driving range of about a mile, Toyota claims the PHEV version will run 13 miles, and up to 62 miles per hour, on electric power alone. We matched thate speed, and actually did slightly better on range seeing 14 miles on all electric mode.

When the battery is drained, or demands are high from speed and hilly terrain, the gas engine kicks in and it runs as a hybrid like every other Prius.

Expect to see a production Prius Plug-In Hybrid Vehicle for sale sometime in 2012.

"The Vue Two-Mode Hybrid proves that power and efficiency can coexist, and in a modern crossover you can have them both without skimping on any ability." – Ben Davis


  • 1.8-liter Atkinson cycle four-cylinderpermanent-magnet electric motor:
  • 98 horsepower: