TOYOTA has updated its plug-in hybrid Prius variant, giving it a longer all-electric range and a world-first optional solar charging system.
The 2017 Prius PHV has an EV range of 68.2km (up from the previous model’s 26.4km) and can be charged normally via 200v/16A domestic supply to fully charge the batteries in 2 hours and 20 minutes or via a quick charging unit for 80 percent charge in 20 minutes.
The optional solar charging system, the first installed on a production vehicle, doesn’t provide a full charge, but recharges the 24Ah lithium-ion batteries while you drive to help improve hybrid fuel efficiency, which is an already frugal 2.7L/100km without it.
If parked in the sun all day it will produce enough power to drive on batteries up to 6.1km, or an average 2.9km.
With the batteries depleted the Prius PHV can be driven over long distances as a hybrid vehicle primarily powered by a 72kW/142Nm 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine coupled with two 53kW/163Nm electric motors. Power is transferred to all four wheels via a CVT automatic gearbox.
The Toyota Prius PHV also gets an exterior facelift including a sharp futuristic face with a larger spindle grille that’s now characteristic of all new Toyota models flanked by quad LED headlights and vertical daytime running lights at its jowls.
The rear is more distinctively Prius, with "double-bubble" glass in the rear window located within a weight-saving carbon-fibre tailgate, high-mount brake lights connected by a single red line and the longer rear overhang gives the side view a more ‘speedy profile’.
New equipment includes a Tesla style 11.6-inch screen with T-Connect SD navigation system and auto high-beam headlights.
Owners can download a Pocket PHV smartphone app which allows them to remotely check and control vehicle charging, remotely operate the air-conditioner and search for charging stations.
Apart from the large screen, the four-seat cabin is the same as other Prius models though there will be an option for a rotating and tilting front passenger seat to make it easier for a person requiring assistance to get in and out of the vehicle.
The 2017 Toyota Prius PHV went on sale Japan last week from around A$38,000, a year after it was first revealed.
Despite more manufacturers bringing plug-in hybrid technology here, Toyota Australia has no plans to sell the Prius PHV here alongside its standard hybrid Prius, Camry and Corolla models.