Consumer demand in the United States is driving Toyota’s move to produce a plug-in hybrid car that can run off grid power alone for a short stint. Toyota won’t let the vehicle come to market without adequate quality control and research into the batteries that will power the car, however.

Last week the maker delivered two plug-in Prii for use by California universities at Irvine and Berkeley as part of a three-year study that will aid in development of the new car. Consumer behavior and opinion will be the focus of the university studies. The battery technology research will go on at Toyota, which says it has no intentions to lease the expensive batteries in its next generation of cars. The idea of leasing the batteries has been considered by some experts as a way to reduce the initial cost of a plug-in hybrid.

In the mean time a third-generation Prius is in development, due to hit the streets as a 2010 or 2011 model. That would make the timing right for a plug-in hybrid as a possible variant of the upcoming Prius line. Whether the plug-in model is branded as a Prius or not, however, it’s on its way, and the world is taking notice.