Test Driving the Prius Plug-In Hybrid

I’ve been test driving a Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid Vehicle (PHV) slated for release in early 2012…I’ve been mostly driving around town (75% local roads, 25% highway) using EV mode for~50% of the driving and hybrid mode for the other half. I have been averaging 97 miles per gallon. Note: I received complimentary use of this Toyota 2010 Plug in Prius and all comments posted here are my own opinion.

My initial observations:

Battery Charging:

I have solar panels installed on my roof.  Despite not having a time of use plan or smart meter installed yet, I know that my electricity rates are in Tier 1 (13.4 cents per kilowatt-hour, or kWh) so I have been liberally re-charging the battery from home during the day in between trips.

It is easy to plug in the car into a standard 120 volt/3 prong home outlet.  The dash has an indicator light to let you know charging is taking place and the light goes out when fully charged. I recommend you have  a dedicated circuit since it draws a lot of electricity.  My electricity would go out if I was re-charging the car and running the vacuum on the same circuit for instance.

While I am excited to get 97 mpg over the past two weeks, I still have to add in the electricity costs to achieve these fuel savings. If you aren’t on a time of use metering system, you will have a hard time knowing your battery charging costs in real time. You’ll have to wait for your electricity bill at the end of the month.

It takes about 3 hours to fully charge the battery, which has 5.2 kWh of total capacity, and about 4 kWh of useable capacity.

If your electricity rates are really high (meaning your household uses a lot of electricity and you are charged at up to  to 32 cents per kWh) and if you don’t have a time of use system which will allow you to charge your vehicle cheaply at certain times of the day, I’m not sure what the real costs would be or if a consumer would want to pay more for a Plug-in Hybrid.


The PlugIn Prius Battery as a range of 14 miles which initially seems low to me. However, with mostly driving short distances and making use of the eco driving mode and the “B” option you can add a more more miles onto the battery life through re-charging while driving.

General Driving:

The Prius feels solid and handles well. I like the Power Mode for faster acceleration. The dashboard display takes some getting used to coming from a conventional car dashboard but the driver feedback is great and if you want to maximize your fuel economy, it is easy to do because of the real-time info while driving. It’s too bad all cars don’t provide real time fuel economy info–it was sobering to see just how much fuel you use driving uphill for example.

I generally drove the car in Eco Mode which makes it slightly harder to accelerate quickly when you are stopped but it allowed me to use the battery more effectively.

The visibility out the rear window is limited because of the hatchback design. There is a split screen effect, you can see the road a bit from the window under the rear door but I found myself less confident about what I was viewing out the rear window and relied on the side mirrors a lot more than I normally do. A family member’s Prius I drove briefly two years ago had a rear view camera on the GPA screen on the dash which showed me exactly was what behind me. I don’t know why this feature has been removed. I would recommend adding it back.

One thought on “Test Driving the Prius Plug-In Hybrid

  • Hi Heather: Nice post and thanks for sharing your experience. It would be great if you or Mike Ferry can give us a run down on the details of this Toyota Prius Plug-In program. I think other folks would be interested.

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