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Power Toys Technology

Toyota Unveils Plug-in Hybrid Prius 555

Posted by Zonk
from the whiiiirrrrrrr dept.
phlack writes "Toyota has announced a plug-in hybrid vehicle, based on their popular Prius. So far, it will only have a range of 8 miles on the battery (13km). They are going to test this vehicle on the public roads, apparently a first for the industry. From the article: 'Unlike earlier gasoline-electric hybrids, which run on a parallel system twinning battery power and a combustion engine, plug-in cars are designed to enable short trips powered entirely by the electric motor, using a battery that can be charged through an electric socket at home. Many environmental advocates see them as the best available technology to reduce gasoline consumption and global-warming greenhouse gas emissions, but engineers say battery technology is still insufficient to store enough energy for long-distance travel.'"
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Toyota Unveils Plug-in Hybrid Prius

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  • by the_flyswatter (720503) on Friday July 27, 2007 @08:33PM (#20018963)
    How much electricity is needed to charge the sucker?
  • 8 miles? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Friday July 27, 2007 @08:36PM (#20018985) Journal
    8 miles? under ideal conditions, flat road, no a/c ... very disappointing. Toyota's engineering is very good. If this is all such great engineers can manage, it shows that batteries have a long way to go.
    • Re:8 miles? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 27, 2007 @08:40PM (#20019021)

      "...engineers say battery technology is still insufficient to store enough energy for long-distance travel."

      This is wrong. Sort of. Lithium-ion batteries can power a car for 200 to 250 miles, but they're expensive.

      I think what they really meant is that "battery technology is still insufficiently cheap for long-distance travel."

      • by Kaenneth (82978) on Friday July 27, 2007 @09:28PM (#20019355) Homepage Journal
        Any technology that is distinguisable from magic is insufficently advanced
      • Re:8 miles? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Christopher Thomas (11717) on Friday July 27, 2007 @10:56PM (#20019973)
        This is wrong. Sort of. Lithium-ion batteries can power a car for 200 to 250 miles, but they're expensive.

        They do that by cheating. The Tesla, for example, carries half a tonne of batteries, and the car itself is built to be as light as possible (the batteries probably outweigh everything else put together, without passengers in it). Lithium batteries also tend to have lifetime issues; numbers I've heard quoted off-the-cuff for lithium batteries are losing 50% of their capacity within a year or two, and only being good for 100ish charge cycles, though this will vary with the specific battery model. This is tolerable for a cell phone or notebook, as you tend to upgrade these frequently and new batteries cost much less than a new unit, but a car will have serious problems under these conditions.

        For a battery-powered car to be really competitive, we'd need a battery technology with at least 5 times the storage density per unit mass, that was good for a decade of daily use before needing replacement. This may or may not be possible; time will tell (unless the engineering difficulties with fuel cells are solved first). On one hand, we aren't anywhere near the theoretical limits to the energy density of batteries, but on the other hand, people have been working on the problem for centuries.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Millenniumman (924859)

          the batteries probably outweigh everything else put together, without passengers in it
          That would mean the car weighs under 1800 pounds. In reality, the car weighs 2700 pounds, and the batteries weigh 900.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Charcharodon (611187)
          DeWalt is putting a new Li-on battery in their rechargeable power tools this year. It doesn't have that much greater storage than what is available now, but they are claiming they can recharge to 80% capacity in five minutes since they don't get as hot or give off oxygen during the recharge. They are saying as well that do to the less wear and tear on the cells that they are going to get at least a 10 fold increase in the number of recharge cycles out of them.
      • Re:Battery Life (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Technician (215283) on Friday July 27, 2007 @11:00PM (#20020005)
        There are two kinds of battery life that needs work. One is related to range.. The 8 mile or 250 mile debate. Often overlooked is the battery life in charge discharge cycles. The only reason the Prius doesn't have a dead battery every 1-2 years like a laptop battery or cell phone or business 2 way radio is because they don't deep cycle them in normal use. A Prius seldom has a battery under 50% or over 80% charged.

        Heat, deep discharges, cell reversal, and overcharging is hard on batteries. The long range drivers do the worst.. Top the batteries off to get maximum range, run them till they go no more and repeat. Plan on buying new batteries every few years just like you do for your digital camera, MP3 player, cell phone, laptop, and other devices that get deep cycles often.

        I think the Toyota 8 mile range is to extend the battery life to 10+ years. It is not for maximum driving range at a high cost.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by fyngyrz (762201) *
      If this is all such great engineers can manage, it shows that batteries have a long way to go.

      Perhaps they're not as good at this as they are at fuel based systems, because some people [teslamotors.com] have done a lot better. Apparently, Toyota needs a little schooling.

      • Re:8 miles? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Lost Engineer (459920) on Friday July 27, 2007 @09:22PM (#20019325)
        Yes, the Tesla is also 98k+. Toyota is not interested in making a car that only Jay Leno can afford.

        So far Toyota has made the most marketable hybrids to date and is actively trying to reduce costs. I'd say their engineering is spot on, given their goals.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Mattintosh (758112)
          You're missing the point of the engineering aspect. Here's what I note:

          Most of the posts here focus on "omg batteries die". This is not the engineering failure. It's a simple fact that batteries must be recharged or replaced when they run out of charge. It's not a major engineering issue. The engineering problem is that the car is mechanically crap.

          "Mechanically crap?" you ask. "But it's a Toyota! They'll get it right eventually!" No. No they won't. Not until they realize that electric cars aren't ICE cars.
      • Wow, what a deal. All you need to do to drive for one cent per mile is spend $98,000 for a Tesla roadster.

        I wonder, how many Teslas have ever been sold, and how many Toyotas were sold.... -last month?....

        -------------
        Here's a fun comparison:
        The Tesla costs $98,000, does zero-60 in 4 seconds, and the battery pack lasts 100,000 miles.

        The 2006 Chevy Corvette Z06 costs $65,000 and does zero-60 in ~3.6 seconds.
        The EPA mileage is 16/26 city/highway (let's use an average of 20 mpg, in use?)....
        And to
        • by fyngyrz (762201) * on Friday July 27, 2007 @09:53PM (#20019543) Homepage Journal

          You remind me of the people who said cars would never be practical, explaining that there were no gas stations, and that you didn't have to crank a horse to start it.

          The Tesla is a carefully crafted, rare, high-tech, high performance ride, very early into the market, and it is priced accordingly. A corvette is an assembly line commodity produced in comparatively huge volume after literally decades of absorbing engineering costs and marketing costs. When the automakers get around to putting a comparable electric car into mass production, the niche the Tesla occupies will close (and the cachet of having a high performance, non-polluting car will go away because they will no longer be rare.) If you think the Tesla's price represents an accurate measure of the price in a competitive market, you're not paying enough attention to how industry works.

          My point was that electric cars don't need to be either slow, or have an 8 mile range. The price is what, maybe 5x that of a Prius? That's not so far off, frankly. This is the beginning of the curve. Some of us see that clearly and are all about waiting a little; but others... are still looking at Corvettes.

      • Re:8 miles? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by frdmfghtr (603968) on Friday July 27, 2007 @09:51PM (#20019527)
        The Tesla Roadster also only has two seats, a trunk barely big enough for one set of golf clubs or a wheeled carry-on bag (check out the FAQS) [teslamotors.com] with the remainder of space holding the big battery pack.

        The Prius has a full rear seat and cargo area, which limits the amount of space that can hold the battery pack. In addition, as has been pointed out, the Tesla also costs nearly 4x a Prius.

        Now, you show me a Tesla four-door hatchback that can carry more that a set of golf clubs, and still match the performance specs of the Roadster, then you might be able to say that Toyota "needs a little schooling."
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by fyngyrz (762201) *

          Now, you show me a Tesla four-door hatchback that can carry more that a set of golf clubs, and still match the performance specs of the Roadster, then you might be able to say that Toyota "needs a little schooling."

          What do you think extending the body length by a few feet and a few hundred lbs would do to the performance? Do you think they made it a two-seater because they had to, or because they figured a hundred thousand dollar car might not be all that salable if wasn't sporty? Did you look at the t

    • Keeping in mind this is Toyota, and Toyota has done a fantastic job with the strategy and execution of the Toyota Prius, the fact that the most reasonable plug-in they could produce could only go 8 miles, it makes you wonder:

      Maybe GM didn't kill the electric car, and they were right all along?
    • 120 miles? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by ev1lcanuck (718766) on Friday July 27, 2007 @09:22PM (#20019329)
      Toyota's engineering is very good. Meet the 78MPH-top-speed, 120-miles-per-charge 1997-2003 Toyota RAV4 EV: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toyota_RAV4_EV [wikipedia.org]. I was passed by one this morning on the freeway, I felt so inferior in my comparatively gas guzzling Prius.

      The batteries don't have a long way to go, they've just been forced out of the picture.
  • Works for me (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Cervantes (612861) on Friday July 27, 2007 @08:39PM (#20019013) Journal
    My round trip to work is 7.5 KM. A little too far to walk or bike (and not be too fragrant for my cow-irkers), but perfect for this little beastie. In fact, even though I live in one of the worlds sprawliest cities, it's still enough to get me one-way somewhere, and I can plug in there for the trip home. I'm sure this would be great for most people and their little jaunts to the grocery store, or to get a movie, or insert the blank here. The majority of driving is short little trips, and this fills the bill.
    Of course, I'll still keep my bigger, gas fueled beast for when I have further to go, but this should be a real option for many people.
    • by Shados (741919)
      Indeed. I have never looked at statistics, but I wouldn't be surprised if, taking aside commercial uses (planes, vans, etc), the "short trips to the grocery stores or whatever thats 3 blocks away" account for most of the fuel use. Cars like that would be perfect for most use. Even better in places like in Quebec where electricity is produced relatively cleanly and is dirt cheap. That would pay for itself much, MUCH faster than current hybrids.
    • Yeah, just like your cell phone that should have a charge for x hours really keeps a charge of about .75x after a year of wear.

      You'll be cutting it close buddy. Not to mention when you are stuck behind a pileup with no way to get off that current road.
      • by Shados (741919)
        Since he said round trip, he's not cutting it close at all. He can -almost- do the trip twice on one charge.
    • You can't bike 4 miles before smelling like a pig? What has the world come to....

      Thanks much, Mr. Waddams.
    • 7.5KM round trip is too far for a bike ride? How lazy are you? That's less than a half-hour bike ride each way. I mean, I know I'm on Slashdot, but yeesh, how bad of shape are you in?
      • by Eccles (932)
        7.5KM round trip is too far for a bike ride? How lazy are you? That's less than a half-hour bike ride each way.

        You may live such an idle life that an extra hour a day is easily spent; many of us do not.

        During the school year, I have no idle period greater than five minutes between 7:15 am and 9:30 pm.
        • 7.5 km is much faster for me to bike than to drive to work. For distances that short it ends up being dominated by traffic controls and parking.

          In my case I can also park closer to my desk when I bike.
    • by Inoshiro (71693)
      "My round trip to work is 7.5 KM. A little too far to walk or bike..."

      You are absolutely joking, I'm sure. A trip of 3.5-4.5 km should be well within the 10-15 minute range for a person on a bike, which is barely enough to make a me break a sweat (unless it is above 25 C out).

      I'm sure with all the money you save by filling up once every month or two (since cars are great for grocery runs), you could get some pitstick to take with you if the odour is that bad. A car that does 13km round trips is great for
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by msevior (145103)
      No need for your beast. Just use gasoline in the Plugin Prius if you need to go further.

      That's the beauty of this.
  • This is out of my home town's paper:

    http://www.t-g.com/story/1218203.html [t-g.com]
    http://www.t-g.com/story/1232246.html [t-g.com]

    Basically it is a car with no fuel and a self recharging battery and runs on a hydraulic pump system. They are getting a patent for it now, so they are trying to keep the details to a minimum. But they say from the fly wheel back the car is unchanged.
  • That's far enough for me. I'm already thinking I can snake a line out of my office. How long does it take to charge, that's the question for me, because that determines how long after I get home from the office I can go back out.
  • Tesla Roadster (Score:2, Informative)

    by cepler (21753)
    Get your $50k cash ready for the downpayment:

    http://www.teslamotors.com/index.php [teslamotors.com]

    100% Electric
    0-60 in ~4 seconds
    135 mpg equiv
    Over 200 miles per charge
    Less than 2 cents per mile

    Now if they could get the price of this down to a reasonable level like a Honda Civic I'd buy it...and a buncha other people would too I'm sure. This would be an IDEAL car for me :)
  • Why the Prius?? (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by oni (41625)
    Someone please explain to me why the Toyota chose the Prius to be its hybird? The prius is the ugliest car they make. It looks like a damn turtle with those tiny little wheels (you know, just like the wheels on a turtle).

    Toyota makes Scion and the Scion Tc is a nice looking car in the same size range as the Prius. Why aren't they sticking batteries in that sucker??
    • Re:Why the Prius?? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MushMouth (5650) on Friday July 27, 2007 @08:56PM (#20019159) Homepage
      Considering there used to be a waiting list to buy a Prius (All models are hybrid, 50MPG), and used cars were selling for the same price as new, but you could walk to your local Honda dealership and buy a Civic Hybrid (48MPG) off the lot, they made the right decision. It is about the type of people who want a Hybrid, they want it to be clear they are driving a Hybrid, the Prius does that while the Civic does not.

    • by MBCook (132727)

      The Prius was something of an experiment, so I don't think they wanted to retrofit an existing design. They wanted to start from scratch so they could design the car around it's needs instead of trying to shove that technology into a Corolla or something. The first Prius looked quite a bit like a normal car (although a little more egg shaped). The redesign made the car much more aerodynamic, and I think it actually made it bigger. It took some getting used to (I really liked the looks of the 1st gen), but I

    • by jcr (53032)
      The Prius has always been a hybrid. Your question makes no sense.

      -jcr

    • Re:Why the Prius?? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Jeremi (14640) on Saturday July 28, 2007 @12:08AM (#20020369) Homepage
      Someone please explain to me why the Toyota chose the Prius to be its hybird? The prius is the ugliest car they make. It looks like a damn turtle with those tiny little wheels (you know, just like the wheels on a turtle).


      One of the reasons the Prius looks the way it does (and has the tiny wheels it has) is because the engineers designing the Prius wanted to maximize fuel efficiency. To do that, they gave it an aerodynamic shape and low-rolling-resistance tires, etc etc. You may think it's ugly, but it looks like it does for a reason. (Personally, I think it looks pretty cool).

  • by delirium of disorder (701392) on Friday July 27, 2007 @09:05PM (#20019227) Homepage Journal
    Most comments so far have dismissed the short battery-only range as mediocre; this article was even tagged "toy". The Toyota Plug-in HV isn't an electric only car. It's a hybrid. It can still go hundreds of miles a day like a regular car. Most of the miles on American's cars are from short day to day trips, not vacations. A plug in hybrid would mean that all those trips wouldn't require drivers to burn any gas (but would still allow them to take the occasional interstate drive).

    Even if your daily commute is too significant to be made in electric-only mode (mine totals 40 miles and my employer won't let me recharge an EV at work), cutting some portion of the gas burning miles is still a major breakthrough. Running few power plants is more efficient than running millions of small engines to generate the same amount of energy. They physics of scale makes ICE cars look insanely wasteful. Electric cars aren't tied to any single fuel source--energy can come from coal, solar, wind, nuclear, etc. This makes EVs a great way to transition from a fossil fuel economy to any future power source. An all-electric car with lithium ion batteries and a several hundred mile range (at working class prices) would blow my mind. But I'm not going to complain if I can't have one yet. Plug-in hybrids may not be ideal, but they're a step in the right direction.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by maxume (22995)
      The break even on the already-more-expensive-than-a-Corolla Prius is somewhere in the 85,000 mile range. Add a thousand dollars more hardware and it goes over 100,000. People just don't like the environment that much.
    • Running few power plants is more efficient than running millions of small engines to generate the same amount of energy.

      I doubt it, unless the power plant is nuclear or solar etc. If you're burning fossil fuels to make the electricity, which do you think is more efficient: a car which turns chemical energy directly into kinetic energy, or a car which starts by converting that same fuel first to electricty at the power plant, then transmitting it many miles, then converting it to chemical energy in the batte
      • by rossifer (581396) on Saturday July 28, 2007 @02:08AM (#20020947) Journal

        If you're burning fossil fuels to make the electricity, which do you think is more efficient: a car which turns chemical energy directly into kinetic energy, or a car which starts by converting that same fuel first to electricty at the power plant, then transmitting it many miles, then converting it to chemical energy in the battery, then converting that back to electricity, and then using that electricity to produce kinetic energy?
        It's amazing that gasoline engines are so ridiculously inefficient, but the powerplant to EV "well to wheel" path is more efficient than the ICE vehicle (don't forget the distribution costs of gasoline, which are higher than for power plants). The "power plant to EV" path also substantially reduces carbon and nitrogen emissions (though usually increases the sulfur emissions when coal is in the mix).

        Here's a well-cited "paper" [electroauto.com] on the subject. Even if you don't trust the author to be objective (since his business is selling electric car kits), the references are unimpeachable and the numbers impressive.

        I'm all for reducing pollution, but if electric cars are running off the power grid, aren't they _worse_ than gas cars?
        No. They seem to be much better.

        Regards,
        Ross
      • by Foerstner (931398) on Saturday July 28, 2007 @03:13AM (#20021187)
        I doubt it, unless the power plant is nuclear or solar etc. If you're burning fossil fuels to make the electricity, which do you think is more efficient: a car which turns chemical energy directly into kinetic energy, or a car which starts by converting that same fuel first to electricty at the power plant, then transmitting it many miles, then converting it to chemical energy in the battery, then converting that back to electricity, and then using that electricity to produce kinetic energy? Don't forget to factor in the increased weight you have to lug around, and all the energy consumed in manufacturing the car itself.

        Consider that regular hybrids already convert chemical energy into mechanical energy, and then into electrical energy, chemical (battery) energy, and then back into electrical and finally mechanical energy. Obviously, this complicated series of thermodynamic conversions must make them less efficient than conventional gasoline cars, right?

        No, because there are all sorts of mitigating factors. For hybrids, this comes from the fact that they use regenerative braking. There are other factors at work in power plants.

        The specifics of thermodynamics are best worked out in practice, not theory.
  • The article says that they are using older style nicad batteries instead of standard lithium ion batteries... all tests of the plugin hybrid vehicles have been using the standard lithium ion batteries. why would they go with the older style batteries which are technically inferior to the current batteries?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by tinrobot (314936)
      Li-Ion batteries are still very expensive, so a Li-Ion Prius would cost at least $10-15K more.

      Nimh batteries would be a more cost effective option, and Toyota used them in it's all electric Rav4. Sadly, Chevron now owns the patents and won't let the technology back on the market -- http://www.ev1.org/chevron.htm [ev1.org]
  • "It's difficult to say when plug-in hybrids could be commercialized, since it would depend largely on advances in battery technology," said Executive Vice President Masatami Takimoto, in charge of Toyota's powertrain technology, told a news conference.

    That's it in a nutshell. Maximum range will have to increase for me. How about if you go out at night, and then consider waiting at stop lights, etc?
  • Not as much as gasoline, but we need to keep pushing the envelope forward.

    It isn't enough to get rid of the gasoline engine. Batteries that have reached their EOL are a disposal problem.
  • Electric Vehicle (Score:3, Interesting)

    by natex84 (706770) on Friday July 27, 2007 @11:06PM (#20020043)
    An acquaintance of mine converted his own vehicle into an electric only vehicle... He drives it to work every day.

    For anyone interested, he has a site describing how he did his conversion here:

    http://www.evhelp.com/ [evhelp.com]

    -Nate

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