Toyota to test electric plug-in hybrid Prius cars

SAN FRANCISCO, July 27, 2007 (AFP) – Toyota announced this week a partnership with the University of California to road test two plug-in hybrid cars, a step toward getting the fuel-efficient vehicles to consumers.

The study to be launched this fall will be the first time a major automaker puts the experimental cars on US roads. UC Berkeley will analyze the behavior of the drivers, and UC Irvine will study air quality and energy use.

By plugging into 110-volt household current, the prototype Prius can cover seven miles (eleven kilometers) per charge in all-electric mode at up to 100 kilometers per hour (62 miles per hour).

“This is exciting technology that Toyota has been working on for years,” Denise Morrissey, Toyota spokeswoman, told AFP. “This will be a great experiment to see how the market will respond to the plug-in modification.”

The new Prius will weigh one hundred kilograms (220 pounds) more than its hybrid forbear to accommodate an additional nickel battery, but other specifications will remain the same.

Toyota’s choice of Berkeley as a testing ground for the daily usage of a modified Prius seems a good fit. The city just east of the San Francisco Bay, where the hybrids are as com