Toyota Studies Plug-In Market Via Zipcar Fleet

Toyota PriusToyota has a plan to demonstrate plug-in hybrid automobile technology, test performance of the vehicles and educate the public about the vehicles all at the same time by putting the plug-in hybrid version of Prius into Zipcar fleets.

Zipcar, Inc., a car-sharing service, has signed a deal with Toyota to put the new plug-in Prius Hybrid into fleets in Boston/Cambridge, San Francisco and Portland, Ore. The automaker says the point is to do further testing and evaluating of plug-in hybrid technology and find out how well electric vehicles can work in a car-sharing model.

The cars will be available at retail in 2012 but the company is distributing some 160 of the vehicles nationwide. Zipcar says it is making three of them available in Cambridge/Boston, with one at the Albany Street Garage on the campus of MIT, which seems a perfect fit. In San Francisco, Toyota also put three of the vehicles in Zipcar fleets.



Toyota says the Prius Plug-in Hybrid's lithium-ion batteries take about three hours to charge in a standard outlet and can travel on electric-only power at speeds of up to 62 mph for approximately 13 miles. Then the car becomes a conventional Prius hybrid, which gets about 50 miles per gallon. "Because many trips taken by Zipcar members are fewer than 13 miles, many PHV trips will be emission-free," says the company.

Zipcar has done EV intros with Toyota in the past. In 2002, the company introduced Toyota RAV4 EVs in Boston and was first to offer hybrid vehicles in Seattle in 2003. The company says it currently has converted plug-in hybrids in San Francisco and pure EV models in the London market and that currently 15% to 20% of its fleet -- about 1,000 vehicles -- are hybrid.

The company says it has 530,000 members and 8,000 vehicles in urban areas and college campuses in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom.

Next story loading loading..