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Plug-in Prius on sale in 2011

Posted by: David Welch on December 16, 2009

Prius plug.jpg

In less than two years, Toyota plans to sell a plug-in version of its popular Prius hybrid to consumers. The company will want to fend off challenges to its green crown, which will be aplenty by 2011. Nissan will be selling its Leaf electric car. General Motors will have the Volt, to name a couple of them.

But will there be enough buyers for all of these high-tech rides? Toyota will start selling the Prius in test batches next year but will offer the car to consumers in 2011. The company expects to sell tens of thousands of the car. GM has similar ambitions for the Volt and Nissan expects the Leaf to garner a lot of interest. On one hand, Prius buyers have a lot more cash than people who typically buy $25,000 cars. The average Prius owner makes $84,000 a year and half of them earn more than $100,000 annually.

On the other, advanced cars like plug-in hybrids and pure electric vehicles will be expensive. The National Research Council put out a report on Dec. 14 saying that plug-ins could be as much as $18,000 more than conventional car. If fuel stays under $4 a gallon in the U.S., car buyers won’t get a payback on the added cost, not even close.

Of course, there will be plenty of buyers who want to be green, make a political statement or test out the latest technology. But it probably won’t be enough for every carmaker to hit their targets on sales of these advanced cars. What they really want to do is make their own statement. When these cars hit the market, every carmaker will be flogging their technology to make a case that they have the killer app. While all of them may be impressive, each will have short comings.

The Volt may get the most pure electric range without needing to recharge, but it could cost more than a Prius plug-in. The Prius may have a price advantage, but won’t be as purely green as a Leaf. The Leaf won’t go farther than 100 miles without needing to recharge. The upshot: It will be a nasty sales battle and profits will be tough to come by.

Reader Comments


December 16, 2009 10:14 PM

I am looking forward to the Volt. I should be able to go most of the year without sending a dime to the Middle East. I think muslims will change their tune when we stop buying their oil. They will be falling over themselves to try and win us back.

Greg Blencoe

December 17, 2009 11:19 AM

As the National Research Council report stated, plug-in hybrid cars will not be sold in large numbers for a long time.

The problem is that there are diminishing returns regarding the value of the batteries as they get bigger.

The small batteries used in a standard Prius offer lots of value. The larger batteries in the plug-in Prius offer decent value. But the very large batteries in the Chevy Volt offer very little value.

Moreover, consumers must make lots of compromises with battery-only cars.

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, which will be arriving at dealerships in 2015, are far superior to battery-only cars when it comes to driving range, fueling time, cold weather performance, and trunk/passenger space.

There are very good reasons why car companies have spent billions on this technology.

Toyota has said the company plans on bringing "affordable" hydrogen fuel cell vehicles to market in 2015.

"7 reasons to love Toyota hydrogen fuel cell vehicles"

Greg Blencoe
Chief Executive Officer
Hydrogen Discoveries, Inc.
"Hydrogen Car Revolution" blog


December 17, 2009 2:24 PM

Not sure why 'Teds' brings the potential religious disposition of the suppliers of America’s oil needs. Since the major foreign suppliers are Canada & Mexico, I can only conclude that 'Teds' is some sort of racist or bigot, and not a particularly bright one at that.

Bring on the 'pure' electric offerings. $40k US is too much for our family for a 2nd around town car but a small, versatile, inexpensive plug in is just what we would like to buy. A Honda FIT electric with a reasonable price increase will get our money.


December 18, 2009 7:56 PM

Teds: All vehicles regardless of make, model, hybrid, electric, or diesel use some form of lubricant..... and most of the time this lubricant does come from overseas. It may be in the CV axles, the wheels bearings, the transmission, the list could go on and on as to what a vehicle needs even if it is not gasoline.

I don't particularly buy into the whole electric vehicle myself. The Tesla is overpriced and if driven as a sports car which many people tend to do, the range is atrociously low. Unless you plan on packing a generator on road trips over 300 miles or so, I would wait and invest in a hydrogen cell vehicle.

Jesus Saves

December 20, 2009 7:31 AM

Teds, which of these items are true about you;
A) live in a double-wide
B) drive a pick-up
C) own a "Harley"
D) go deer hunting
E) buy lottery tickets
F) all of the above


December 20, 2009 11:28 PM

stop it please,

and thanks Jesus Saves

Big Jim Slade

December 29, 2009 8:13 AM

Stop gap product at a stupid price.

If the gas pumps go dry, you're a genius. If they stay open, you're a sap.


January 3, 2010 11:34 PM

Fabulous car really want to take a sure test drive on it. It had been painted with my favorite color.


January 26, 2010 10:01 PM

Hydrogen cars are 20 years in the future. In 20 years, it will still be another 20 years. We already have an electrical infrastructure. Special interest groups wants tax payers to build a hydrogen and ethanol infrastructure so they can profit. We need to move forward with electrical, natural gas and butanol as alternative fuels, utilize our existing infrastructure and reduce reliance on imported oil.


April 15, 2010 2:03 PM

gentlemen, gentladies! this little car is not the beallendall, just a little journey back into the future long denied. capital will be required to build future units of more practical size, including trucks and buses. egalitarian and divided let us not be. i remember that little town in the adirondacks where grandma lived, with the mill that ran by water rushing down the hill, entertainment provided to one and all by the US Govt Post Office's electric Maxwell (yes, the same one
Jack Benny and Rochester would argue about). We waited every day to see if it would make it up the hill. Mostly it did. Have a little faith. Do something now to change the world.

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Want the straight scoop on the auto industry? Our man in Detroit David Welch, brings keen observations and provocative perspective on the auto business.

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