Toyota has announced that it will lease 500 plug-in hybrid-electric Prius models starting this year. These will be the first plug-in version of the Prius on the road and will feature new lithium-ion battery packs, which hold more energy than the conventional nickel-metal hydride batteries used in other hybrid systems.
Of the 500 vehicles, 200 will be leased in Japan, while 150 units will be sent to the U.S. and 150 to Europe. Two-thirds of the European vehicles are earmarked for France. The vehicles will be leased primarily to corporations and governments.
Toyota hopes that by introducing these plug-in hybrids now it can raise awareness about the upcoming production model. For short distances the Prius plug-in hybrid will be able to operate on just electric power. Once that energy store has been depleted, the gasoline engine will kick-in to to charge the battery-packs, which in turn will power the electric motor. This will allow for the cars to be driven without the driver having to worry about a place to plug-in.
Toyota is currently considering expanding this project to include the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Germany.