Toyota has just launched a fifth-generation Prius whose plug-in hybrid variant is claimed to deliver an electric range that's more than 50% higher than the previous generation's 25 miles. However, the company is working on plug-in hybrids that will offer significantly more range.
At a presentation on Friday outlining Toyota's strategy for the coming decade, Hiroki Nakajima, Toyota's chief technology officer, said the company plans plug-in hybrids that will be able to travel more than 124 miles on electric power alone. He didn't say on what test cycle such a range could be achieved, but it's likely based on the WLTP cycle used overseas, which is more lenient than the EPA cycle. He also didn't mention timing.
Nakajima said Toyota wants to position its future plug-in hybrids as “practical” electric cars. The typical owner would likely only use the vehicle in electric mode for most trips, with the internal-combustion engine being there as a backup for occasional longer trips or for trips in regions where charging infrastructure is lacking.
Nakajima said the company is developing more efficient batteries for its next-generation electric cars set to begin arriving in 2026, and that the batteries are expected to increase range by a factor of two compared to Toyota's current EVs.
It's possible the same batteries will end up in Toyota's long-range plug-in hybrids. An alternative may be solid-state batteries, which Toyota is developing. The company has said its first application for a solid-state battery will be in a hybrid vehicle. The extra energy density of solid-state batteries mean they can deliver much more range than a liquid-type battery of the same weight.
At the presentation, Nakajima also said Toyota plans to pursue mass production of hydrogen-electric powertrains, albeit for commercial vehicles such as medium- and heavy-duty trucks and not passenger vehicles. Advantages, assuming hydrogen refueling stations are available, include a lot less weight than battery-electric trucks, as well as much faster refueling.