Toyota’s Prius will become a rolling test bed for next-generation plug-in hybrid technology later this year, when a few California institutions receive prototype Priuses outfitted with plug-in capability.
Toyota confirmed the tests today after the Japanese government granted it permission to run similar tests on the Prius in Japan.
The U.S. test vehicles will be issued to the Advanced Power and Energy Program at the University of California , Irvine (UCI) and the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California , Berkeley (UCB). The tests will be run in conjunction with the state’s California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the California Energy Commission (CEC).
Toyota says it’s running the tests to see if the infrastructure can handle the demands a plug-in vehicle fleet might create. Plug-ins are a spin on existing gas-electric hybrids, in which larger battery packs can be charged through conventional power outlets, giving the vehicle a longer range of operation without having to depend on the recharging capability of the gas engine.
Toyota’s U.S. executives called the test a “pilot program.” The test vehicles will be outfitted with hardware that will simulate the performance of a roadgoing plug-in hybrid that Toyota hopes to build and market.
Toyota has sold more than one million hybrid vehicles, and its Prius is breaking its own sales records despite a relative stability in fuel prices.
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