Toyota's Testing Plug-in Hybrid Car

How long till your Prius is sold with a plug? Toyota says that it has developed a plug-in hybrid car, which it will test on roads in Japan. Like the Prius, the “Toyota Plug-in HV” has a gas-powered engine and an electric motor, but can also be charged in a standard electrical outlet.

There has been a lot of talk about the possibility of Toyota announcing a plug-in over the past weeks and months, and now it’s official. The release says that Toyota will become the first manufacturer to have a plug-in hybrid car certified for use on public roads in Japan.

Because plug-ins can be charged through an electrical outlet, in theory they can use less gasoline power to charge batteries and can get even better mileage. The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) recently released a report that said that plug-in hybrid electric vehicles could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles by more than 450 million metric tons annually in 2050, significantly improve air quality over the next few decades, and reduce petroleum consumption by 3 million to 4 million barrels per day in 2050.

Other car manufacturers, GM and Ford, have have indicated that they are considering plug-in hybrids options too. There are several companies that offer conversions of hybrids into plug-ins, but mostly manufacturers warn against DIY options.

Update: The LA Times says that Toyota will also partner with two California universities — UC Irvine and UC Berkeley — to test plug-in versions of its Prius hybrid for the schools’ sustainable transportation studies.