By Nauman Farooq
Toyota has had a rough start to the year 2010. They have constantly been in the news for all the wrong reasons.
First came news about problems with their accelerator pedals which has resulted in a massive recall involving many of their vehicles.
Then owners of the Prius, which is the most popular hybrid in the world, got a recall regarding its brakes.
Most recently, the Toyota Tacoma was added to the list of recalled vehicles with a possible problem with its front drive shaft.
Regardless of these setbacks, Toyota is moving forward, and their display at the 2010 Canadian International Auto Show is evident of that.
On display are vehicles such as the new Sienna mini-van and the 4Runner SUV. However, possibly the most interesting on their display is the Prius PHV. The acronym PHV stands for Plug-in Hybrid Vehicle, and that is what differentiates this Prius from the regular version.
While the normal Prius is also a hybrid, it only charges its battery when the vehicle is coasting or braking. Plus with the size of battery it has on board, its driving range in pure electric mode is very modest as it only has a range of about 4 km. Plus, with the regular Prius, anytime you lean on the accelerator a little hard or when speeds go upto 70 km/h, the gas-engine kicks in.
Then the gas engine has to lug the weight of the heavy nickel-hydride batteries and its electric motor. Not exactly a very efficient way to move about.
With the Prius PHV, you can drive around, even at highway speeds, until the battery power is depleted. Plus its driving range has been increased to 20 km on a full charge (thanks to its new Lithium-Ion battery pack), which while still might not cover your entire commute, it will atleast let you pop to the local shops without burning any fossil fuel.
How it accomplishes its extra range is through a different method of charging the battery. Rather than just relying on regenerative braking energy, the Prius PHV can be charged by plugging it into a wall socket.
The idea is, you come home, park the car in a garage, and plug it into its charging port. This will charge up the car for your next trip. The really interesting bit of news is the charging time. While electric cars in the past required nearly 10 hours to charge up their batteries, the system developed by Toyota will fully charge up the Prius in three-hours from a 110V outlet or one and a half hours with a 220V connection.
This quick charge will make the Prius PHV much more efficient for its owners. You just have to get into the habit of plugging it in after you get home.
The Prius PHV is being road-tested globally at the moment and looks set to be on sale by next year. Hopefully by then, Toyota will have all their current woes behind them.