If you follow car news, you already know that automakers around the globe are preparing to launch an array of plug-in vehicles, from hybrids to full EVs. But while many of those models have already begun creeping toward showrooms, there's one notable absence: the Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid.
As our sister site, Green Car Reports, reported last fall, the launch of the Prius Plug-In has been pushed back to mid-2012. But there's some good news for hybrid fans: the company is providing a handful of Plug-Ins -- eight, to be exact -- to select Zipcar outlets across the nation.
Of course, Zipcar isn't the only fleet with access to the new ride. Back in December, Hertz announced that it would rent the Prius Plug-In to drivers in New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and other markets. In fact, a total of 160 Prius Plug-Ins are being made available nationwide, with Toyota's goal being to (a) study the performance of the vehicles, and (b) generate buzz among the car-buying public.
No doubt, Zipcar will allow Toyota plenty of opportunities to examine performance. The company seems particularly attractive to eco-minded urbanites, so these eight Plug-Ins will likely be in very high demand. Whether they'll result in buzz -- and ultimately, sales -- is a different question, since Zipcar members aren't necessarily the car-buying type.
Zipcar Announces Program with Toyota to Launch Multi-City Introduction of Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles (PHVs)
CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Jan. 27, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Zipcar, Inc., the world's leading car sharing service, today announced the introduction of eight Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid Vehicles (PHVs) into the Zipcar network, in an effort to further test and evaluate plug-in hybrid technology and gain increased intelligence on how electric vehicles (EVs) can fit into a large-scale car-sharing model. The Prius PHVs are now available to Zipcar members in Boston/Cambridge, San Francisco and Portland, Oregon.
The new vehicles are part of a pilot program with Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. to demonstrate plug-in hybrid technology, evaluate the performance of the vehicles and help to educate and prepare the public for the electrification of the automobile. The Toyota Prius PHVs, which will become commercially available in 2012, are eight of approximately 160 being distributed by Toyota nationwide.
Zipcar currently offers three of the vehicles in Cambridge/Boston; one located at the Albany Street Garage on the campus of MIT, one at 33 Arch Street in downtown Boston and one at the Prudential Center. San Francisco members have access to three of the Prius PHV vehicles, which join a converted plug-in Prius already in the fleet. One of the vehicles is housed in front of City Hall, one is located in North Point/Fisherman's Wharf and the third is located in Union Square. Two vehicles are also available in Portland, one at the Portland State University Parking Garage and one at Shaver Green. The eight Prius PHVs will be available to Zipcar members in Boston/Cambridge, San Francisco and Portland for reservation throughout 2011.
"As the operator of the largest connected vehicle network in the world, Zipcar is committed to taking a thoughtful and deliberate approach to EVs. Given Toyota's long standing commitment to hybrid and plug-in vehicle technologies, they are an ideal partner for this project. We are dedicated to embracing cutting-edge vehicle technology in a strategic way, and in a way that meets the standards of large scale, multi-city, multi-country car sharing," said Scott Griffith, Chairman and CEO of Zipcar. "Zipcar is an ideal test bed for early consumer acceptance of EVs. This project will allow companies to receive direct feedback from thousands of consumers in three cities and help evaluate how EVs fit into a large-scale car sharing model."
The Prius PHV is powered by lithium-ion batteries and can be charged from a standard 110-volt outlet. The vehicle, which takes up to three hours to charge, can travel on electric-only power at speeds of up to 62 mph for approximately 13 miles, after which it shifts to operate as a conventional Prius hybrid, averaging an estimated 50 miles per gallon. This makes the PHV model ideal for car sharing, as members are assured that the car can go the distance, no matter the charge when they pick it up. Because many trips taken by Zipcar members are fewer than 13 miles, many PHV trips will be emission-free. With the Prius PHV, Zipcar members can rely on the electric charge for shorter trips, but rest assured they have back-up for longer road trips or for use between charges.
"The PHV demonstration program is designed to gather real-world driving data and customer feedback on plug-in hybrid technology, and we're excited to be working with Zipcar to further test how this technology could have even greater environmental impact by fitting into the car sharing model," said Mary Nickerson, national manager, advanced technology vehicles, Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. "This program will help us to educate and inform the public on plug-in hybrid technology, evaluate the performance of the vehicle under different driving conditions and better understand the benefits to future customers."
Zipcar has been a pioneer in using advanced vehicle technologies, being the first car sharing company in the United States to introduce electric vehicles into its fleet with the launch of Toyota RAV4 EVs in Boston in 2002, and the first to offer hybrid vehicles with the launch of hybrid vehicles in Seattle in 2003. Zipcar currently offers converted plug-in hybrids in San Francisco and pure EV models in the London market. Today, Zipcar offers over 1,000 hybrid vehicles available internationally, representing 15-20% of the company's entire fleet.