Plug-in Prius trial begins

* Three-year trial * 20 hit London's streets * Hybrid goes on sale in 2010...

Plug-in Prius trial begins

A three-year trial of the Plug-in Toyota Prius hybrid will start in London this July, while sales of the car will commence in 2012.

Twenty of the cars, which can travel up to 12.5 miles on battery power alone, will be leased to public bodies and businesses. The trial will be used to gather data and create a better insight into how the cars are used.

The Plug-in Prius has an average fuel consumption of 108.6mpg and emissions of 59g/km. It can do 62mph on battery power and accelerates from 0-62mph in 11.5 seconds 1.0 second slower than the standard Prius.

A full recharge of the batteries takes between just 1.5 and 2.0 hours, and Toyota says they'll last for around 10,000 charge cycles compared with 2000 cycles for the batteries in an electric-only car.

The Plug-in Prius seats five people, although a small amount of boot space is sacrificed to accommodate the greater volume of batteries, which are lithium-ion rather than the nickel metal hydride cells found in the standard car. Weight is also increased by 130kg to 1500kg.

What's the Plug-in Prius like to drive?
It's quiet, as you might expect, and also extremely responsive away from a standing start.

The car's electric motor generates torque almost instantly, so the plug-in hybrid had no trouble whatsoever in keeping up with London traffic when we tried it out.

It would also be at home on faster routes, although its range would be depleted more rapidly on such roads.

Press the accelerator and the familiar 1.8-litre VVTi petrol engine kicks in smoothly to provide added power and once the batteries are depleted extra range.