Toyota Cuts $2,000 – $4,500 from 2014 Plug-in Prius MSRP

October 23, 2013 lacarguy Green Articles,, Toyota 0 Comments

by Zach McDonald |

When the 2014 the Prius Plug-in goes on sale next month, one major change about the vehicle will likely be very pleasing to consumers: its price. Base MSRP for the 2014 Prius Plug-in will be lowered to $29,990 (before state and federal incentives,) with pricing for the feature-loaded Advanced model cut to $34,905. The price decreases total $2,000 and $4,500 respectively.

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The car is also eligible for a federal tax credit of $2,500 and a California state rebate of $1,500, meaning that drivers in the Golden State will be able to bring one home for as little as $25,990. Other than the change in price, the 2014 edition of the car will be identical to the 2013, and there will be no stripping down of amenities to accomplish the reduction.

Toyota’s decision to cut prices for the Prius Plug-in comes late in a year when nearly every producer of a mass-market electric vehicle has moved to make their cars more affordable in an effort to win customers. But for Toyota, the discount doesn’t seem to stem from low sales numbers. The Prius Plug-in—which is currently only available in 15 states—ranks third among plug-in vehicles in sales so far this year, behind only the Nissan LEAF and Chevy Volt.

The breakdown of the top-selling plug-in cars for September 2013 reveals that each of the pack leaders offer something different to buyers: the LEAF is an affordable limited-range EV; the Volt is a slightly pricier extended range PHEV; the Prius Plug-in is a shorter range PHEV with high MPGe and superior fuel efficiency in hybrid mode; and the Tesla Model S is an expensive electric sedan with a range at least double that of any other EV. Each car occupies its own place in the market, but Toyota is hoping that this newest price cut puts the Plug-in Prius on radar for more customers.

Next Generation Prius Planned for 2015 Release

September 13, 2013 lacarguy Green Articles,, Toyota Tags: , , 0 Comments

by Zach McDonald | The Toyota Prius family was the best-selling vehicle line in California over the first half of 2013, moving more than 170,000 total units through June of this year. But despite progressively growing sales numbers each year in California and around the country—as well as the release of three new Prius models including the Prius c, Prius v and Prius Plug-in—Toyota hasn’t actually given the platform a true overhaul in more than four years. toyota-prius-hybrid In 2009, improvements to Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive system and the vehicle’s overall design netted an increase in the Prius’s average fuel economy rating to 50 mpg. Since then, no other carmaker has managed to match that number in a pure hybrid. Recently though, at an event in Ypsilanti, Michigan, Toyota Managing Officer Satoshi Ogiso gave journalists a sneak peak at what’s in store for the new generation of Prius family vehicles. First and foremost on the list of improvements will of course be fuel economy—the driving factor in the Prius’s success over the last decade. According to Ogiso, the next Prius will feature a 10 percent improvement in fuel economy, pulling average efficiency up to 55 mpg. The increase will come as a result of a redesigned Hybrid Synergy Drive, lighter materials and a new battery pack, which is rumored to potentially be powered by lithium ion rather than nickel metal hydride. Handing will also improve, as Toyota works to lower the center of gravity of its cars under its New Global Architecture. Toyota also announced changes to the next generation Prius Plug-in, promising more electric range and possibly a wireless charging feature that the carmaker is currently testing. The fourth generation of Prius is scheduled to hit the road sometime in 2015.

Southern California Electric Provider Prepares for 350,000 Plug-ins by 2020

August 21, 2013 lacarguy Green Articles, Tags: , , , , 0 Comments

by Zach McDonald |

One of California’s largest electrical providers, Southern California Edison, has released a report [PDF] detailing the usage patterns and expanding needs of its plug-in vehicle driving customers since the technology re-emerged to the market in late-2010. In the paper, SCE reports that it currently services 12,000 plug-in electric vehicle owners, or roughly 10 percent of the nationwide total. Over the next six and a half years, the utility expects that number to grow to many as 350,000 households.


Naturally, since most plug-in owners opt to install higher-voltage Level 2 charging stations, which recharge their cars at 240V rather than the 120V voltage of a standard outlet, equipping the grid to handle this added demand might present some challenges for a utility. Southern California Edison says that it has had no problems meeting the current needs of its PEV-driving customers, and that it will be ready for an 338,000 additional cars hooking up to the grid each night by 2020.

The study bodes well for other utilities across the nation, which will face the same challenges (albeit at a slower pace) in the coming years, as plug-in adoption approaches the 1 million-vehicle goal set by the President four years ago. SCE found that 65 percent of the plug-in drivers in its coverage area drive plug-in hybrids, which have smaller batteries and require less charge each night. Of those PHEV drivers, half charge almost exclusively via a standard outlet, which significantly tamps down strain on the system.

Southern California Edison says that improvements to the grid are being addressed on a need basis, which happens to coincide with upgrades that would be necessary anyway. So far, just 1 percent of the upgrades it has made are directly attributable to EVs.

The greatest challenge identified by the study lies with multi-occupancy dwellings such as apartment buildings and condos. According to SCE, less than 5 percent of the building owners and condo associations surveyed are currently considering providing charging infrastructure for plug-ins. That may change as more vehicles hit the road, but in the meantime, the issue will remain a barrier for plug-in adoption among non-homeowners.

Toyota’s Hybrid Dominance Continues

August 12, 2013 lacarguy Green Articles,, Toyota 0 Comments

by Zach McDonald |

In recent years, the hybrid market has grown from the Toyota Prius and a handful of other offerings to nearly fifty unique models spread across more than a dozen different nameplates. Hybrids have gone from being a blip on the radar to a significant piece of nearly every automaker’s strategy for improving the fuel economy across its lineup. Still, with more carmakers tossing evermore hats into the gas-electric ring each year, Toyota has kept hold of its early dominance both nationally and in the key green car bastion of California.


Recently, the carmaker sought to remind us of this via a press release trumpeting the company’s continued success in the California market. Through the first half of the year, Toyota announced it had maintained a 61-percent market share in the Golden State, with the Prius representing half of all hybrid sales in California.

“The hybrid industry has become competitive, but our wide-range of hybrid vehicles continue to deliver high value and strong attributes to both new and loyal customers,” said Bill Fay, vice president of Toyota Motor Sales, USA, in the release.

Though California’s robust green vehicle market still represents the most vital region in the U.S. hybrid and electric vehicle game, Toyota’s performance nationally has been even more impressive this year. According to, Toyota hybrids account for 70 percent of nationwide hybrid sales through July, up from 67% for all of 2012, when hybrids made up roughly 3.5 percent of the total vehicle market.

According to Toyota more than 90 percent of the nearly 1.5 million hybrids it has sold in the U.S. (spread across 7 different models including the Prius line) are still on the road. The company says it remains on schedule with plans to expand to 18 new or remade hybrid models by 2015.

Plug-ins Outsell Early Hybrids

July 26, 2013 lacarguy Green Articles, 0 Comments

by Zach McDonald |

Pundits began calling the electric vehicle market a failure long before the first Nissan LEAF deliveries began back in 2010. Though sales have boomed recently thanks to falling prices on some models, the numbers for the two biggest plug-in models are still well below what Chevy and Nissan had hoped for. But does this really prove what so many editorialists have written over the course of the last three years—that Americans simply don’t want plug-ins?


It all depends on how you look at it. When the first hybrids went on sale more than ten years ago, they were far more expensive than conventional ICEs and consumers didn’t know about or trust the new technology. Today, nearly every major brand either already sells or will soon sell a hybrid model, with some carmakers like Toyota offering hybrid variants across most of their platforms.

So how does early plug-in adoption compare to the first few years of hybrid sales? According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the numbers actually predict a pretty bright future for electric vehicles.

The DOE recently tweeted a graph comparing the first 31 months of hybrid sales to the first 31 months of plug-in sales. From the very beginning, electric vehicles have outsold hybrids during the same period of their existence by more than a two-to-one margin. Where hybrids had sold roughly 50,000 units in the U.S. after 31 months, more than 115,000 plug-ins have been sold since late 2010.

According to, plug-in sales more than tripled last year over 2011 numbers, from about 17,500 to 53,000 in 2012. This year, plug-ins are on pace to sell more than 100,000 units. Hardly a failure as far as technology adoption curves go.

What’s more, plug-in vehicle infrastructure is still in its early days of development, and only a few of the 14 models on the market are available outside of California and the handful of other states that have been targeted by carmakers for early market releases. As plug-ins begin to spread to other markets, sales numbers will continue to grow—the only question is how fast?

VW Invites Journalists to Drive the XL1

July 2, 2013 lacarguy Green Articles,, Volkswagen Tags: , , , 0 Comments

by Zach McDonald | Over the last dozen years, Volkswagen has gradually been working to perfect a concept car so revolutionary in its fuel efficiency that it was known as the “One-Liter.” The naming reflected VW’s original goal for the car, to produce a vehicle that could travel 100 kilometers on a single gallon of fuel. vw-xl1-wolfsburg Now, with the addition of a small lithium ion battery pack and plug-in hybrid charging capability, the One-Liter has evolved into the XL1, a limited-run production vehicle that will not only meet, but exceed the original goal of 100 km/L fuel economy by 10 km/L. VW recently invited a small group of journalists to drive the car in Wolfsburg, Germany, giving them a chance to peep some of the more nuanced fuel-saving features and find out how the final production vehicles drive. The verdict form is that while the XL1 most certainly wasn’t built to appeal to the mainstream, its single-minded focus on reducing inefficiencies provides a unique look into the future of automotive transportation. The most noticeably deviant feature of the XL1 compared to other cars is its shape. With a wider front that tapers off into a teardrop-like rear, the XL1 was designed to be among the most aerodynamic vehicles ever on the road. A coefficient of drag of just 0.19 blows production plug-ins like the Nissan LEAF and Chevy Volt (which both have a 0.28 coefficient,) and the Tesla Model S (0.24) out of the water. Another measure Volkswagen undertook to reduce drag was the elimination of side and rearview mirrors in favor of cameras that display on screens inside of the cockpit. This approach saves weight and drag on the vehicle, and is an example of a feature that may see its way onto production vehicles from a number of carmakers in the future. Full-sized power windows have also been replaced by small, hand-cranked miniature sub-windows which exist as part of the full window glass on the driver and passenger-side doors. This kind of feature, as well as minimal sound-proofing that makes every bump and acceleration audible to those inside of the cabin, is likely a sacrifice that would be unacceptable to mass-market consumers. For Volkswagen though, the XL1 is still largely a test vehicle, even if 250 will soon be made available on the European market. What the company learns from its experience with the XL1 though will likely pave the way for a number of future fuel-saving innovations available to the greater market.

Charity Groups Battle to Win Toyota’s Prius Plug-in MPG Challenge

June 10, 2013 lacarguy Green Articles,, Toyota Tags: , , 0 Comments

by Zach McDonald |

The Toyota Prius Plug-in is designed to give variable results in fuel economy depending up on how it is used, thanks to its 11-mile EV Mode driving range. Use it to drive only short distances in between charges and the Prius Plug-in can regularly operate without any gasoline whatsoever. Drive longer distances between charges and it will perform closer to a standard Prius.


In an effort to gamify this disparity, Toyota this week announced the Prius MPG Challenge. Five waves of charitable organizations comprised of as many as eight groups at a time will be given Prius Plug-ins to drive for 30 days. Participants for the first wave of the challenge will be based in the New York Tri-State Area, and include the Greyston Foundation, Greater Mercer TMA, Bloomfield College, RYASAP, Glamourgals, and Helping Hands Food Pantry.

“By tapping regional organizations, we’re able to engage at a local level while demonstrating the Toyota Prius Plug-In‘s ability to improve the lives of our fellow community members,” said Toyota New York Region general manager David Christ in a press release.

Each group’s fuel usage will be recorded via the car’s on-board trip computer over the course of the month. The winning teams will receive $2,500 for first place, $1,000 for second place, and $500 for third. Each car must travel at least 500 miles total, with a weekly minimum of 75 miles. Fans can monitor the progress of the challenge on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Porsche Panamera Nets More Than 53 MPG in Media Test Drives

June 1, 2013 lacarguy Green Articles,, Porsche Tags: , 0 Comments

by Zach McDonald |

This week, Porsche turned its soon-to-be released Panamera S E-Hybrid over to journalists for a series of test drives at an event in Stuttgart, Germany. Over the course 42 sessions, journalists were allowed to pilot the car through a 28.7 km course “comprised [of] 6.5 km city driving, 9.2 km of country roads and 13 km of German Autobahn.” At the conclusion of the tests, the car had racked up an impressive average efficiency of 53.5 mpg, with one driver managing to push fuel economy as high as 84 mpg.


The Panamera S E-Hybrid debuted at last month’s Shanghai Auto Show and has an all-electric range of about 22 miles. Porsche touted the car as the first plug-in hybrid in its class, promising it would travel in all-electric mode at speeds of up to 83 mph. Estimated average fuel economy stands at 75 mpg by European standards, leading to questions of just how well it will perform under American EPA tests.

But if the recent journalist test drives are any indication, the answer should be “pretty well.” Average speed for the tests was 54 km/h, while the average speed for the European fuel economy testing regimen is just 33 km/h.

The Panamera S E-Hybrid‘s dual drivetrain combines for a total of 416 horsepower and 435 pound-feet of torque, via a twin-turbocharged V6 engine and 95-hp electric motor. Electric energy is stored by a 9.4 kilowatt-hour lithium ion battery pack. Suggested pricing in the United States will start at $99,000, roughly a $21,000 premium over the gas-only Panamera.

Toyota Avalon Hybrid Draws Praise in Reviews

May 20, 2013 lacarguy Green Articles,, Toyota Tags: , , , 0 Comments

by Zach McDonald |

Toyota‘s new Avalon Hybrid was released earlier this year as the latest product of Toyota‘s gradual push to offer hybrids across every segment of its vehicle lineup. The Avalon Hybrid‘s sibling, the Lexus 300h ES shares its drivetrain with the Avalon Hybrid but comes at a higher pricetag and with more amenities.


The Avalon platform, remade for 2013, is a full-size sedan line offering improvements in comfort and upgrades in features compared to the midsize Camry Hybrid. Performance and efficiency numbers are nearly identical to both the Camry and Lexus hybrids, with the Avalon providing up to 200 horsepower at an EPA average combined fuel economy of 40 mpg (the Camry averages 1 mpg better.) That should come as no surprise considering that the Avalon shares the same 2.5-liter Atkinson cycle engine with both vehicles.

Efficiency fares slightly better under urban driving conditions, where the hybrid can officially travel gas-free at speeds of up to 25 mph. In real world tests, reviewers have exceeded Toyota and the EPA’s efficiency estimates. was able to keep the Avalon Hybrid in EV Mode at speeds of up to 48 mph, while Edmunds produced city fuel economy of 46.5 mpg during its 100-plus mile test.

The Avalon Hybrid starts at $35,555, more than $9,400 north of the Camry Hybrid, but offers a number of luxury car comforts as standard to the vehicle. Leather seats, a leather wrapped steering wheel and heated mirrors are among a number of features not standard in the Camry but built into the base-model Avalon. Suggested starting pricing comes in $4,500 higher than the V6 Avalon, and about $3,700 lower than the Lexus 350h ES hybrid.

Subaru Unveils 2014 XV Crosstrek Hybrid in New York

April 4, 2013 lacarguy, Subaru Tags: , , 0 Comments

by Zach McDonald |

We’ve known for some time that Subaru’s first hybrid offering was headed to market for 2014—the only question was which existing model it would be built around. The carmaker did an admirable job keeping that secret until last week, when it unveiled the XV Crosstrek Hybrid at the 2013 New York International Auto Show.


The car is a more efficient, more powerful version of Subaru’s popular XV Crosstrek, which debuted last year and is a crossover based upon the Impreza sedan platform. The non-hybrid XV already boasts impressive efficiency on its own—25 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway—and while Subaru has yet to announce official numbers for the hybrid, it’s said to net a mild improvement of about 10 percent in overall fuel economy.

So why bother with building a mild hybrid version of the XV Crosstrek? The answer lies in the crossover’s blend of improved performance and fuel economy. Rather than thinking about the Crosstrek Hybrid as a strictly green upgrade over the standard XV, think of it as replacing a 2.5-liter performance version of the car. The Crosstrek Hybrid’s 13.4-horsepower electric motor improves acceleration and torque without necessitating a larger engine, and even provides sufficient power to drive the car on its own at speeds up to 25 mph.

The car fares significantly better in the city than its non-hybrid brethren, making it far more suited for use as an every day grocery hauler in addition to a weekend getaway finder. Oh, and it just so happens that the XV Hybrid will be the most fuel-efficient all-wheel-drive crossover on the market when it comes out later this year, besting the Lexus 450h by about 2 mpg in overall fuel economy.

Pricing for the 2014 XV Crosstrek Hybrid hasn’t yet been announced, but Subaru plans to begin making deliveries of the car in the fourth quarter of 2013.