Originally, the name "Prius" meant something like, "to go before." Toyota chose the name for it's first mass-market hybrid car to emphasize its gas-electric leadership. Today, Toyota is unveiling the second-generation of the Toyota Plug In Hybrid, and the name might as well mean, "to follow in others' footsteps." Say hello to the Toyota Prius Prime.
Starting with the revamped style of the fourth-gen Prius to a new extreme, the Prius Prime adds a bigger battery pack to the new look. The new powertrain means that the Prime can go up to 22 miles in electric mode. That's about a doubled improvement over the EV range of the first-gen Prius Plug-In, but it's small potatoes compared to the rest of the plug-in hybrid competition. The Chevy Volt gets 53 miles of EV range, the Hyundai Sonata Plug-In Hybrid can go 27 miles and even the modest Ford Energi models can go 20 miles. With the new Prius, Toyota is no longer in last place, but it's certainly not at the head of the pack.
The Prius Prime does do well in the miles per gallon equivalent race, though, with an estimated 120 MPGe. If that turns out to be accurate, then Toyota will be able to lay claim to the highest MPGe for any PHEV. Toyota isn't saying what the mpg rating will be once the 8.8-kWh battery runs out, but it does say it is, "targeting a hybrid MPG equal to or better than the Prius liftback." That means at least 54 mpg in the city, 50 on the highway, and 52 combined from the same 1.8-liter, Atkinson-cycle, four-cylinder engine found in the new Prius.
Speaking of the new Prius, apparently the Toyota designers were not as happy with that look as they might have been, since one of the most controversial aspects – the front end - has been radically changed. The spiky headlights are gone, replaced with the boxy ones from the hydrogen-powered Mirai. The taillights are also different in the Prime, as was teased last week. Inside, an 11.6-inch touchscreen dominates the center stack.
The Prius Prime name was outed last summer in a patent filing. The new PHEV will be available in the fall.