Toyota redesigning Prius plug-in hybrid to double car’s all-electric range

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RocketNews 24:

Toyota’s Prius is designed for one purpose, and it’s not to deliver the sort of exciting performance that will seduce you into taking a spirited drive through a moonlit mountain pass (that’s another car’s job). No, the Prius promise is that it will get you from Point A to Point B in the most energy-efficient way possible.

But while the standard hybrid Prius remains a popular choice for eco-conscious motorists, sales of its plug-in variant have been stagnant. Toyota is hoping to change that, though, with an updated Prius that can travel roughly twice as far under purely electric power than the current model.

If you’re the kind of person who’s more familiar with the handling differences between front-wheel, rear-wheel, and all-wheel drive than what separates one class of hybrid from another, a brief refresher on just what constitutes a plug-in hybrid may be in order. Unlike a standard hybrid vehicle, the batteries in a plug-in hybrid can be charged directly by plugging the car into a socket. By allowing the car to run in either a purely electric mode or with the electric motor and gas engine working together, plug-in hybrids seek to combine the flexibility of a normal hybrid with the efficiency and lower emissions of an all-electric vehicle.

Toyota released its first plug-in Prius, called the Prius PHV, in January of 2012. Hoping to build on the strong brand awareness and reputation of the normal hybrid Prius, the company was expecting a similarly warm response for the newer, ostensibly more advanced version of the car.

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But while the Prius PHV sought to offer the advantages of both a hybrid and all-electric mode, it couldn’t deliver on the latter for very long. From a full charge, the current Prius PHV can only run 26.4 kilometers (16.4 miles) in full-electric mode before its batteries are drained, meaning that unless you’re headed someplace fairly close, you’re going to need to burn a little gas to get there and back.

Car buyers haven’t seen that as much of an advantage, especially considering that prices for the Prius PHV start at 2,931,429 yen (US$24,634), more than 30 percent more than the ordinary Prius hybrid, which is priced from 2,232,000 yen. The end result is lackluster sales numbers, and three years and three months after its launch, Toyota has only found some 20,000 buyers for the Prius PHV, a mere fifth of what the company was hoping for in that time frame.

In contrast, rival Mitsubishi Motors has enjoyed great success with its Outlander PHEV plug-in hybrid SUV, which boasts a 60.2-kilometer all-electric range. Even with its much higher price (starting at 4,123,440 yen), Mitsubishi has been selling Outlander PHEVs at a brisk pace, moving 13,000 in 2015 alone.

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This sales gap has shown Toyota that it needs to step up its game, and the company has announced that the Prius PHV will be getting an update. Equipped with an increased quantity of batteries, and also thanks to weight-saving measures in other parts of the vehicle, Toyota is promising that the refreshed Prius PHV will be able to travel more than 50 kilometers in its all-electric mode, a distance roughly twice what the current model is capable of.

The new Prius PHV is expected to arrive at dealers in the fall of 2016. In the meantime, grab a map and start plotting out all the new places you’ll be able to go without needing a drop of gas.

Drive off in an official “One Piece” (anime) Nissan Serena

Drive off In an official One Piece Nissan Serena

RocketNews 24/Anime News Network:

Nissan is collaborating with One Piece to offer a limited edition Serena Highway STAR S-HYBRID. Dubbed the “Thousand Serena,” a play on the Straw Hat Pirates’ Thousand Sunny ship, it features a special One Piece car wrap and hubcaps.

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If you’re keen on getting your hands on this vehicle, though, you’ll need 3.25 million yen (about US$27,300), some lottery luck… and kids. Not only will purchase of the vehicle be determined by lottery, but only parents with children will be allowed to enter, in accordance with the Serena’s family-oriented marketing campaign. Due to a high volume of interested buyers, nine will be available.

There’s another perk, though. Whomever wins the lottery will also receive enough gas to “go around the world,” or 40,000 km worth, which at current Japanese gas prices is worth about $3,300.

For more information about the purchase lottery, which runs until March 9, check out Nissan’s campaign website.

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Hyundai unveils first Korean-made plug-in hybrid

The new Hyundai Sonata Plug-in Hybrid is displayed next to Vice Chairman Chung Eui-sun of Hyundai Motor Co. at the media preview of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on Jan. 12, 2015. (photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor Co.)

Korea Times: 

South Korea’s top carmaker Hyundai Motor Co. took the wraps off of its Sonata plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) at a motor show in the U.S. on Monday (local time), its first-ever car that can be recharged to run on both gasoline and electricity.

The Sonata Plug-in Hybrid is a first of its kind engineered and built by a South Korean company, and will be a symbol of our outstanding green vehicle technology,” said Vice Chairman Chung Eui-sun of Hyundai Motor.

The company released the details of the unveiling in Seoul.

The new hybrid midsize sedan, shown at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, is estimated to travel up to 22 miles, or 35.4 kilometers, solely on electric power with its 9.8 kilowatt-hour battery pack, according to Hyundai Motor.

The powertrain incorporates a 2.0-liter Nu four-cylinder engine coupled with a 50-kilowatt electric motor so that the vehicle can continue to operate with the likes of the more conventional hybrid cars even when the battery runs out.

Standard safety features include a tire pressure monitoring system and electronic stability control, which helps to avoid crashes by reducing the dangers of skidding. The plug-in model also comes with vehicle stability management for directional steadiness when driving on slippery roads.

The Sonata PHEV, to be produced in South Korea, will be launched in the carmaker’s home market and in the United States later this year, Hyundai said. Pricing of the new hybrid was not disclosed.

Hyundai Motor will strengthen its competitiveness in overall eco-friendly car lineups, including fuel cell, hybrid and electric vehicles, so as to emerge as an industry leader in the business,” Chung said.

Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors Corp., flagships of the world’s No. 5 automotive conglomerate Hyundai Motor Group, plan to become the world’s second-largest manufacturers of fuel-efficient cars by 2020, up from fifth place they claimed last year. Toyota is currently the industry leader in the green car sector.

Industry analysts anticipate that demand for eco-friendly vehicles will soar to 6.4 million units in 2020 from last year’s 2.2 million.

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Honda’s new EV charger can draw some of its power directly from the sun

Engadget: 

While your new EV or plug-in hybrid is surely green, plugging it into the coal-fired grid may not feel so much like winning. Solar energy is a much better story, though, and Honda has just announced a new exterior, wall-mounted plug-in charger that can work directly with such systems. The charger will switch between standard AC and solar according to the amount of power produced by the sun, and even work during a power outage. It’ll also allow smart-card metering for commercial installations, tamper-proof locking and smartphone monitoring via WiFi.

There’s no timeline or pricing for it yet, but for the chance to stick it to big energy? We can’t wait.

Check out this link:

Honda’s new EV charger can draw some of its power directly from the sun