The Toyota Prius, the quintessential hybrid car, now comes in four distinct flavors. There’s the conventional liftback; the wagon-like Prius V; the compact Prius C; and since March, a plug-in version. It’s currently offered in only 15 states, but it goes national next year. Toyota wants to sell 15,000 a year.
A few weeks ago, I drove a Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid for a week. For most of the week, when I was driving my kids’ carpool and doing local errands, the dashboard display read somewhere between 99 and 250 MPGe. The “e” stands for equivalent because I was almost always running on electricity, rather than gasoline measured in gallons. On a longer trip, the car simply reverted back to a 50-mpg Prius.
This versatility explains why the Chevy Volt, also a plug-in hybrid, and the plug-in Prius were purchased by nearly 20,000 car shoppers in 2012 through August—while the pure electric Nissan Leaf sold only about 4,000 units. In September, the Volt had a record-breaking month, selling nearly 3,000 units.
Auto executives, on hand at this year’s Paris Motor Show (which runs through October 14) have been paying close attention to how plug-in hybrids are outselling EVs. “There will be, for a long time to come, no alternative to the internal combustion engine,” said Martin Winterkorn, Volkswagen’s chief executive. “The new powertrain taking shape as very promising is the best of electric and engine power: the plug-in hybrid.”
Didier Leroy, Toyota Motor Europe CEO, agreed. “Customers are not yet willing to compromise on range,” he said. “And they don’t like the time needed to re-charge the batteries.”
Plug-in hybrids are like electric cars with training wheels. For the first stretch of driving—somewhere between about 10 and 40 miles, depending on the model—a plug-in hybrid runs purely or mostly on electricity from the grid. But then, an onboard gas engine wakes up to provide the same amount of range as a conventional gas-powered car.
At the end of the day, consumers need alternatives. So, the plug-in Priuses listed on eBay —in California, Arizona and Michigan—are reassuring. It’s a solid choice for consumer wanting to go green, without having to give any thought to driving range.
The jury is still out on the long-term prospects for pure electric cars, models that never use a drop of gasoline. But until then, plug-ins like the Prius Plug-in Hybrid—as well as the Chevy Volt, and Ford C-Max Energi—will help tens of thousands of Americans reduce emissions, save money at the pumps, and make a transition to petroleum-free driving.
For more information about fuel efficient cars, visit eBay’s Green Driving Center.