Toyota unveiled the new and improved version of its Prius Plug-in Hybrid at the New York auto show on Wednesday. In keeping with the plug-in market’s trend of increasing all-electric range, the new Prius Plug-in Hybrid will double its battery capacity to 8.8 kilowatt-hours—thereby roughly doubling its electric range to about 22 miles. Toyota estimates that the new version, dubbed Prius Prime, will get about 120 miles per gallon equivalent.
Toyota halted production of its previous plug-in Prius in June 2015. Sales dwindled to a few dozen units per month by the end of 2015.
The outgoing model, capable of only 11 miles purely on electricity, was commonly criticized for its over-reliance on gas power. The new plug-in Prius overcomes that shortcoming by adding a mode to strictly lock out the gasoline engine, no matter how aggressively the accelerator pedal is used. In addition, the Prius Prime will stay in electric-only mode up to 84 miles per hour and utilize more electric power even when not in “EV mode.” The amount of power provided by the electric motor alone is upped to 127 horsepower from its previous 91 horsepower.
The upgrades to the new 2017 Prius-with-plug will make it more competitive in terms of electric-ness with the Hyundai Sonata Plug-in Hybrid, Ford's plug-in hybrids, and the Audi A3 e-tron—which respectively offer 27, 20 and 16 miles of all-electric range. Nonetheless, the Chevy Volt, with its 53 miles of all-electric range, remains in an entirely different and higher category.
The Prius Prime is also designed to increase efficiency through the use of carbon fiber in the hatchback area and via improved aerodynamics in the rear glass design.
Toyota plans to annually sell about 20,000 Prius Prime models in the US. That would be a significant increase from the 13,000 units of the Prius Plug-in Hybrid sold in 2014. In 2015, a year when the model had been discontinued, Toyota sold about 4,200 units.
Toyota officials confirmed that the Prime’s plug-in hybrid system was engineered for use across the company’s entire vehicle portfolio—signaling the possibility that other Toyota models could one day be offered with plug-in hybrid capability.