Like it or hate it, The Plug-In Prius Prime Is The 3rd Most Important Plug-In


Toyota Prius Prime On NY Auto Show Floor (InsideEVs/Tom M)

Toyota Prius Prime On NY Auto Show Floor (InsideEVs/Tom M)

From the original announcement of the 4th generation Prius, the plug-in version has been a mystery to me.  Why was the plug-in version not released at the same time?  Why the delay? The original Plug-in Prius has been out of stock for quite some time (production ended June 2015).  The RAV-4 EV was discontinued.  Toyota was no longer selling any car with a plug on it. Did they just not care about plug-in cars anymore due to their infatuation with hydrogen fuel cells?

Toyota Took The Wraps Off The 2017 Prius Prime Wednesday In New York

Toyota Took The Wraps Off The 2017 Prius Prime Wednesday In New York

Well, I watched Toyota’s live stream Wednesday morning as they unveiled the 2017 Prius Prime plug-in from the New York Auto Show.

Many things caught me by surprise.  The first thing I noticed was the sheer fact that they changed the name from Prius PHV (or Prius Plug-in) to Prius Prime.  I kept asking myself, “why did they do that?”

Then I began to see how very different this car is from the regular Prius 4th generation hybrid.  As I watched them unveil the huge Tesla-like touch screen and talk about the car’s features I realized that this was going to be big.

Toyota Prius Prime - 11.6-inch Multimedia HD Display

Toyota Prius Prime – 11.6-inch Multimedia HD Display

2017 Toyota Prius Plug-In - Not Only Gets Its Own Name, But Distinctive Styling

2017 Toyota Prius Plug-In – Not Only Gets Its Own Name, But Its Own Styling

Now, this won’t be obvious to many EV enthusiasts, especially based on the comments I read on many websites, most of which were poking fun at the EV range of 22 miles.  And let’s not beat around the bush.  I agree with most of those comments.  I drive a 2013 Volt which should be behind the times, by comparison, and yet I get 16 miles more range than that.

But I’m an EV enthusiast and I am very familiar with all of the EV cars out there. And while I wouldn’t buy this car for myself, I can still see the bigger picture and realize why this car is going to be big.

To understand why, we can start by looking at the previous generation of Prius Plug-in.  Yes, it had an abysmal 11 miles EV range.  Many people would often (incorrectly) cite the 6 mile range listed by the EPA due to their testing method and the inability of the old Prius Plug-in to lock out the gas engine when accelerating hard.

First Generation Toyota Prius PHV

First Generation Toyota Prius PHV

That vehicle was only available in CARB states and was indistinguishable from the regular Prius hybrid to all but the trained eye.  It was very much a “compliance car” for CARB.  Yet, despite all of that, it often out-sold many of the more capable plug-in hybrids and was almost always somewhere in the top 4 sellers of EVs. In fact, it ranked in as number 4 best-selling plug-in for 2014. (all-time monthly/yearly plug-in sales charts for US can be found here)

2014 Monthly Sales Chart For The Major Plug-In Automakers, *Tesla Full year Model S Results Verified

2014 Monthly Sales Chart For The Top 5 Plug-In Sold In The United States (*Tesla Full year Model S Results Verified)

I haven’t seen any hard evidence, but instinct tells me the reason they sold so well despite their poor performance came from two major advantages.

The Badge And Accumulated "Green Cred" Mean Something To The Wider Market

The Badge And Accumulated “Green Cred” Mean Something To The Wider Market

The first is that it carried the Toyota Prius name badge, which has earned itself a fantastic reputation over the last 15 years or so. People associate Toyota with quality hybrid products.  General Motors, on the other hand?  Not so much.

The second advantage is that it was easy to convert regular Prius buyers to Plug-In buyers at the dealership level. The regular Prius already sells by the millions. After all, there was virtually no downside to getting the Plug-in over the standard hybrid.  There was no lost cargo area, like Ford’s products.  With the tax credit, it ended up being about the same price as a well-equipped regular Prius.  Even if people never plugged it in, there wasn’t much to lose. From a manufacturing standpoint, the original Prius Plug-in shared almost every component with the standard hybrid.  It was basically designed to be as cost-efficient as possible for a low-production vehicle.

2017 Toyota Prius Prime From NY Debut (InsideEVs/Tom Moloughney)

2017 Toyota Prius Prime From NY Debut (InsideEVs/Tom Moloughney)

So let’s go back to the new Prius Prime. So forgetting about the un-competitive 22 miles of EV range for the moment, let’s talk about what makes it really special.

2017 Toyota Prius Prime From Above

2017 Toyota Prius Prime From Above

First of all, the reason for the delay is now obvious.  The car is very different from the regular hybrid model.  It is it’s own car. While it does share some parts with the regular hybrid, both the interior and exterior are very different.  Toyota wouldn’t have spent the R&D money to develop this vehicle as a separate car unless they planned to sell a lot of them.  That would also explain the new name.  This, again, distinguishes it from the regular Prius hybrid.  And to top it off, they have already said it would be available in all 50 states from day 1 (which come around November of this year).  So it is no longer a compliance car

So what is my prediction?  This car is guaranteed to sell better than the last Plug-in Prius.  If Toyota took General Motors’ approach to selling the Volt, and just shipped this car to their dealers and didn’t bother to advertise it, they would probably still easily sell 2,000 units per month.  That would beat out most EV and PHEVs on the market.  But, I don’t think Toyota is going to take that approach.  Like I said, I don’t think they would have developed this car like they have unless they planned to make it worth their while.

I suspect Toyota will actually try to sell this car.  So my prediction is that it will sell 3,000 to 5,000 units per month.  So until the Tesla Model-III comes out, the Prius Prime may end up being the #1 selling plug-in on the market.

2017 Toyota Prius Prime

2017 Toyota Prius Prime

22 Miles Of Range And Slower L2 Charging Won't Hinder The Prius Prime's Success On The Market

22 Miles Of Range And Slower L2 Charging Won’t Hinder The Prius Prime’s Success On The Market

And while it may not be the most competitive vehicle on the market from a perspective of EV range, it will likely be less expensive than most of the competitors. It has more range than Ford’s Energi cars, and many other PHEVs that have less than 20 miles of range.

Flooding the market with a mediocre PHEV is not a bad thing.  Just like Tesla has helped raise awareness of all-electric vehicles, the Prius Prime will likely do the same for PHEVs.  It isn’t likely to steal any sales away from the Volt, Leaf, Tesla, or BMW i3. It might steal a few from the C-Max energi, which is doomed anyway.

For the most part it will simply increase overall sales for the plug-in market.  That’s a good thing.  And since the range is mediocre, people will want to charge them at work and in public.  That will help create new demand for level-2 charging stations.  And, of course, the people who buy these cars will get a taste of the EV experience.  When it is time to get their next car, they’ll want more range.  They may upgrade to a full electric or a better PHEV, again boosting the whole market.

Toyota Prius Prime At New York Auto Show Debut (InsideEVs/Tom M)

Toyota Prius Prime At New York Auto Show Debut (InsideEVs/Tom M)

So even though I don’t want one of these cars for myself, I am very excited about what this car is going to do for the industry.  Toyota may yet redeem itself for it’s hydrogen nonsense, but the Prius Prime may be the 3rd most important plug-in, right under the Chevy Bolt EV and the Tesla Model III.

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121 Comments on "Like it or hate it, The Plug-In Prius Prime Is The 3rd Most Important Plug-In"

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Totally nail it.

Even, has you said, this car have no interest from my part, it will convert much more people to electric than most think.

Totally Missed the Target.
Anyone, even a Toyota buyer, will actually look at 20 mile range, when you’ll be about to get 120-200?

Not a chance.
These spec’s were great in 2007.

Alpha777 said: “Totally Missed the Target. Anyone, even a Toyota buyer, will actually look at 20 mile range, when you’ll be about to get 120-200?” You’re comparing BEV range to PHEV range, which is somewhat an apples-to-oranges comparison. A better comparison would be to the Volt’s electric range. A lot of people — especially those outside North America — won’t even look at a GM badged car. Toyota, despite some infamous not-so-long-ago problems, has a longtime reputation for reliability. And how many will the Prime seat? A lot of would-be Volt buyers complain that even the new Volt won’t seat 5 full-sized adults. Yeah, a lot of people will be buying this car. I certainly agree with author David Murray: This car, even with its mediocre electric range, still has a better range than a lot of PHEVs currently on the market. And kudos to Toyota for giving the Prime a distinctive look, even if they did shoot themselves in the foot by mimicking the front-end design eyesore of the Mirai. On the downside: Despite a lot of doodads and a big, Tesla-like display screen, Toyota is still lagging far behind GM on PHEV tech. C’mon, Toyota. Don’t be like… Read more »

I got on a waiting list to buy the original 2004 Prius and got one of the earliest produced. It had a few minor problems they fixed under warranty, and I had to replace the coolant pump myself. Other than that, it’s still driving 12 years later in the hands of a new owner.

I now loathe Toyota and their fuel-cell delay tactics, BEV foot dragging, ALEC supporting, and increased-CAFE-standards-fighting ways. However, Toyota’s reliability and brand name recognition is still legendary and they have a huge following. Even with its crappy specs, Prius Prime will sell to a ton of people who are creatures of habit and have come to trust the brand name and reliability.

Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Plymouth, and Mercury had loyal followings, too.

This car is a giant snooze. Looking forward to really cool 100% electrics. Bury the past. ICE and Hybrids… even plug ins. Build out the infrastructure for charging… eliminate big oil ASAP and end idiotic foreign entanglements over oil.

I waited 5 months for my 2001 Prius, that I am still driving today.

My employer uses 100% wind energy and has four vehicle charging stations of which only two are used regularly. I look forward to occupying a charging spot next year.

My 6’5″ frame is not well accommodated by most GM products. The Bolt is intriguing, but the Prius, through all generations, has always been comfortable and reliable.

The Prius Prime begs me to try the new generation.

Interesting. My best friend is 6’7″ and could not fit in my former ’13 Prius driver’s seat, but fits easily in my ’15 Volt driver’s seat, AND, in the ’17 Volt he tried out last week!

Completely agree… ancient idea… on par with a more refined fusion/c-max plug in hybrid which is not a bad car… but no real news. This new Toyota will also not sell as well as previous models simply because it lost a seat and whole lot of headroom in the back seat. Much less useful than the previous model as a taxi or family hauler. Iffy design choices go beyond the ultra modern, hyper dramatic and aerodynamic exterior. My prediction… not an important car… except to websites that sell lots of ads to Toyota.

The #1 reason the last plug-in Prius sold so well was because it met the bare minimum battery size to get a tax credit as well as most importantly qualified for a sticker so just a driver could drive in the carpool lanes in California. Most plug-in Prius owners never plug in but reap the huge benefit of driving right by stopped traffic. Unless California issues more stickers for plug-in hybrid vehicles, I don’t see huge sales.

Bullseye, David. Nice review. Prius buyers reflexively buy another one, and with distribution, 5,000/mnth won’t be a surprise. Also, hasn’t Toyota barely eaten into its ~250,000 federal tax-credits?

Thanks Mr Murray for this article.
I have been a proud owner of first generation 2003 Prius, my wife has been really satisfied by her both Gen 2 2005 and Gen 3 2010 Prius. She had purchased a Volt 2012, replaced by a Volt 2015…
I would go back anytime to Toyota cars such as Prius Prime for one main reason : reliability!

..well said!! I don’t want the car either but I certainly won’t begrudge anybody who does. Good for the cause!

Good point Pete. Let’s let the Market decide. Many options for many buyers is a good thing. Enjoy the variety!

It could sell well _but_ this time things are different:
– Only 4 seats: lost a differentiator
– The Volt Gen 2 has much better ratings and with the Bolt, GM will have 3 cars to attract buyers looking for efficiency (Volt, Bolt, Malibu Hybrid)
– Hyundai Ioniq: if what Hyundai said at the NY show holds up, it’s going to compete directly against the Prius and take sales.
– Price: we still don’t have that information. It’ll be very important.

Yes, it’s clearly improved from the previous version, and if it weren’t for the 4 seats and the arrival of the Ioniq I’d be more positive about it. I just hope that the price is good enough that they get a lot of conversion from the liftback amongst the people who blindly opt for a Prius.

I didn’t even know the prime only has 4 seats?! Stupid. GM and Toyota really don’t want to make EV cars 100% do they.

If anyone is interested as to why the Prius Prime only has four seats, AutoNews gives a surprising, if not head-scratching reason as to why Toyota chose to go with four seats.

“Curiously, the Prime is a four-seater. This is because when Toyota engineers test efficiency against their own internal benchmarks, they fill every seat in that particular vehicle. Five people in the car ate into the Prime’s efficiency too much to hit Toyota’s goals.”

Random thing on this to add after talking to some people specific to the efficiency goals. As the Prius Prime is close to a structure reinforcement benchmark at weight …

ie) if they had a fifth seat, then the estimated cargo/passenger load would have tipped so that the structure would have had to be significantly altered

…as such, even without the passenger, the car itself with 5 available seats would have gained ~200+ lbs of weight with the mods, regardless if someone was sitting in there or not.

Specific to your quote sven, if Toyota made it a seat, they would have risked going under the 50 MPG extended range petrol number they look to hit (no numbers have yet been released, but it is expected/hinted at ~51-53). So instead of a seat, they just put the inverter/charger in the back. Not commenting at all on whether or not the trade-off was worth it or not, just saying that is why…it is, what it is.

/random info no one cares about, lol

It’ll be interesting to see what the crash test ratings end up being. Sounds like Toyota made some sketchy decisions around structural integrity.

Thanks for the info Jay.

I would bet that the Prius Prime base model will be more expensive than everyone thinks.

They have stated that it will come standard with the Toyota Safety Sense P package. That’s sounds great but it also means they aren’t giving it away for free and will push the base price up. It will also cost more for leather interior and that big screen they showed off.

It will qualify for a $4500 fed tax incentive which means it would still need to be priced $3000 less than a Volt Premier to be the same price in the end with similar options since the Volt gets the full $7500. So if it would need to be priced around $34,500 to cost the same.

Now that the new Volt has 53 ev miles, much better performance, and 4.5 seats the Prime really needs to come in at least a couple thousand less after tax incentive compared to a Volt Premium which means $32,000.

With the advantage of Prius branding if they price it in the $30-32k price range they will sell well.

Philip d said:
“They have stated that it will come standard with the Toyota Safety Sense P package. That’s sounds great but it also means they aren’t giving it away for free and will push the base price up.”

Toyota said that it new Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA), which is also Toyota’s new production system, will significantly lower both parts costs and production costs, and Toyota will use the savings to include more features and technology in its cars. The new Prius and Prius Prime are the first cars build under the TNGA.

Toyota recently announced that it was making Safety Sense standard on almost all it’s models/trim levels by end of 2017. It’s also not that expensive, as last year it was only a $417 option on a lower trim level Toyota Corolla, and standard of higher trim level Corollas.

If you step back a bit and look at the amount of progress in just three model years it’s kind of startling.

100%+ more EV range (11 blended to 22 pure)
35% faster top EV speed (62 MPH to 84 MPH)
58% greater EV mode power (60kW to 95kW)
50% faster charging (2.2 kW to 3.3 kW)
300% more efficient heating (heat pump)
500% more availability (50 state sales)
Lower price.

Things are moving along quite quickly in this space now. This is not an incremental update, even if it doesn’t have Volt EV range.

I don’t know if that’s a valid way to compare.

Yes, the improvement from 1 gen to the next is good, but that’s because neither design really tries to fully utilize what’s available from a technology standpoint. That’s why even the second gen Prius doesn’t beat the first gen Volt in EV range, etc.

In other words, both model Prius plug-ins were obsolete before they were ever introduced to market.

Just like the Gen 2 Volt’s battery down the middle design is obsolete. It was obsolete in the Gen 1 already. And let’s be honest here, both generations of the Volt only seat 4.

I don’t see how you can call the Volt’s T-battery “obsolete” when the competition is as follows…

i3 Rex: still 4-seater
Prius Prime: still 4-seater (and much smaller range)
Ford Energis: severely reduced cargo room (and much smaller range)
Plug-in Prius: miniscule range

Yeah, I think “non-competitive” would be a better description than “obsolete”.

The intrusion of the Volt’s T-shaped battery into the passenger compartment doesn’t make the car obsolete. Neither will the Prius Prime’s 22-mile electric range make it obsolete.

But those attributes help neither car in making them competitive against other PEVs on the market today. We can be sure that future generations of the Prime, if there are any, will increase the electric range. And GM has already moved to the “skateboard” design with the Bolt. We can be pretty sure that future PEV designs from GM won’t use a battery pack which, like the Volt’s, intrudes into the passenger space.

I don’t think the skateboard design is compatible with a PHEV that has a parallel-hybrid mode. The only PHEV with a skateboard battery is the i3 REx, which is (not coincidentally) almost dangerously underpowered when running on gas. (And, for some bizarre reason, is STILL a 4-seater.)

Every other PHEV, including the PP, uses some sort of non-skateboard package. So I think the battery form factor is not so much an issue of being “non-competitive” as it is “picking your priority”:

– Ford Energis sacrifice lots of cargo space – i3 REx sacrifices both a 5th seat and performance under gas
– Prime sacrifices a seat
– Volt sacrifices ~1/2 a seat

Well, now that you’ve pointed that out, I guess I was mis-using the term “skateboard”. I guess that if a car has an ICEngine underneath the hood, it can’t have an actual skateboard design.

What I meant was a battery pack that’s a flat layer under the floor of the passenger cabin. Even if the car has to have a driveshaft running from front to back, I think it could still have that design. The GM Bolt has something that looks suspiciously like a front-to-back (or back-to-front?) driveshaft in this see-through render, yet it still has a flat battery pack under the floor:

Pushmi, I don’t think that is a driveshaft-like object. 😉
It looks like a coolant tubing cover plate or something.
How is that for a precise description of a nondescript object?

The Bolt is confirmed to be front wheel drive.

Comparing an EV/PHEV, only by range isn’t the right way to look at it. Its pretty easy to get to more range, put in a bigger battery. But its also easy to predict the outcome of it, its going to be more expensive. Of course in an EV range is somewhat king… until you reach a certain amount of range. How much more would you pay to go from 500 miles of range to 1,000 miles? I guess not as much as going from 100 to 200. In a PHEV you have the same issue, what good is a 400 mile PHEV?

What I want to say is, that the Prius Prime could be a nice car, if its cheap. The Volt is still an expensive car and without incentives it could not compete with regular cars. If the additional price of the Prime is low enough to attract a quarter of the regular Prius drivers, then this car could be huge.

With tax credits, the first Gen Volt was effectively the same price to buy as the first Gen Prius plug-in, with over triple the all electric range, and without the need to feather the accelerator, limit top speed, or run without heat.

I expect the Gen 2 Volt will also be cost-competitive with the Prius Prime, and it maintains the range advantage, and now has an additional seat.

I would bet the Prime will still have a bit more cargo space. I haven’t had a chance to look at the detailed specs yet.

“What I want to say is, that the Prius Prime could be a nice car, if its cheap. The Volt is still an expensive car and without incentives it could not compete with regular cars.”

I think there is a bit of bias in there. The Gen 1 Prius was the same cost as the Volt after incentives were factored in on both vehicles.

I would argue the Volt is closer to competing with regular cars than the Prius, given the electric range they have and the performance capability. But admittedly, that is also an opinion that can only be confirmed in hindsight. Time will tell!

Either way, I do love how many plug-ins we have available now. While I personally feel the Volt is superior today for many reasons, having more and more cars with a plug on the market is a great thing.

Toyota sold nearly 50k of the old one, and the old one had piddly electric capabilities.

This new car has a very good chance of hitting a huge swath of the market and moving a lot of people into their first plug-in car in a way that GM still hasn’t figured out how to do with the arguably (mechanically) superior Volt.

The Prius is a known quantity to shoppers. Reliable car, reliable brand, reliable resale value, reliable insurance rates, it goes on and on.

Throwing more capability onto an existing product for a little more money is potentially an easier sell than going from one’s third Prius to their first Chevy.

The original PIP was also one of the cheapest ways
(without range limitations) to get HOV stickers.

Such lipstick. Much squealing.

Plus one…

Insignificant and irrelevant. Third most important? •lol•

The Prius Prime is just one in a bunch of as good or better PHEVs. Toyota needs to do a lot more and better to get rid of their non-green label that they have earned during the last few years.

The positive part is that every plugin counts even if it’s little and late.

You don’t think they will sell 1000s a month?

Not without Carpool Sticker…

Unless they price it less than regular Prius after rebates, unlikely…

Yeah, it’s pretty amazing that the article and the comments so far haven’t mentioned the HOV sticker. The *only* reason the Prius PHV sold so well was that the large majority of sales were in CA and, with tax credits, it was basically buying a Prius but one that could get an HOV sticker.

If you haven’t spent significant time in the LA or SF bay areas you don’t realize that HOV stickers are like gold due to the traffic backups – people do make car choices based on them. When I was working at a customer site last summer in northern CA there were many plug-in Prii in the parking lots and NONE of them were ever actually plugged in at the various charging stations. Being CA, they had all kinds of other EVs at the charging stations, but never a PIP. You’d almost think that the buyers of those never actually plugged them in ….

You know, as important as CA is in terms of early-adoption for most tech, and certainly in terms of leading low-emissions development — it’s still not the entire US market, and certainly not the entire global market — for Toyota or others.

North America (and that includes Canada & Mexico) are about a thirs of Toyota’s global sales.
Since this isn’t a compliance car, and Toyota is a globally-known and respected brand, rightly or wrongly (unlike Tesla or GM), the HOV issues don’t matter as much as you think.

It’s significant and important. With practically useless range, this will let people think they’re entitled to park in EV charging spots (rather than charge), preventing others from charging.

Few times I’ve been ICED (them not plugged in), they were mostly Tesla S, PiP, Volt. I suspect they don’t need to charge, so they don’t and instead use charging spot as parking spot.

Was it an even distribution among the three cars, or was there a clear 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place for the ICEings?

Tesla S worst offender, PiP and Volt tied. But sample size is very small. However, I don’t think I’ve ever seen PiP charging at public charger while I’ve seen S using Chademo and Volt using L2. If you take that into account, PiP is worst.

Worst example I’ve seen – one EV charging station in Philadelphia is marked “hybrid parking only”! Yes, I’ve been iced by a non plug in hybrid Yukon at this station. (Franklin Institute fwiw)

Thanks for the response SparkEV.

Having bought a used 2004 Prius in October 2012, with the primary plan to support one of my EV FEST exhibitors that offered a after market Plug In battery pack system, and who had supported the show since 2010, only to discover they had stopped sellig their product at about the time I bought the car, I drove it about 30,000 Kms prior to selling it to a co-worker last February (who, by the way, loves it, and would likely never had bought a hybrid if not for me!). I have driven it to Key West in 2014, and discovered it could (for me, dring alone back to Toronto from Oshkosh, Wisconsin) as low as 4.5 L/100 Km, and on the Florida trip, averaging 5.2 L/100 Km, I drove 700 Kms before the “Get Gas” message popped up, and pushed it right to quitting to see another 70 Km, before it died (about 5 Km short of the next exit and gas station!), so 770 Kms to empty. Driving this Prius Prime, if driven first in Hybrid Mode, and saving the EV Mode to the last, would allow (if they designed the cars controls right) to have 22 miles of… Read more »

“I haven’t seen any hard evidence, but instinct tells me the reason they sold so well despite their poor performance came from two major advantages.”

The reason it sold so well in California was because it was eligible for Carpool (HOV) Lane green stickers. Which, frankly, was a complete joke due to its crappy EV range and inability to lock out the gas engine. These POS cars took green stickers away from cars that truly deserved it, like the Chevy Volt and Cadillac ELR, both getting over 37 miles per charge, and both being able to drive without using any gas at any speed.

I totally agree. I remember seeing a survey where 58% of all Prius Plug in buyers primary motivation was HOV access.
I think a fair number of them even said they never used the plug at all!
That being said, this is a different beast. With a more powerful electric motor and higher all electric speed, it’s at least as capable as the Energi products and other 20ish mile PHEV’s. They’ll sell by the boatload.

The green HOV lane decals are now gone. So we’ll see if as many folks are motivated to get the Prime knowing that it won’t grant them single occupant access to the HOV lane.

I agree with most parts of this article. This is an important car and will have positive impact on EV market. It’s great that Toyota is stepping up.

However, I don’t think it’s going to be market leader at any point and I definitely don’t see it among the most important plug-ins. There are cars that are way more influential and advanced. Cars like Volt, Bolt, Model S, Model 3, Leaf and i3.

I like the name Prius Prime. It instantly makes it clear that this is something much better than regular Prius.

David, you make some very strong points, but you leave a sour taste in the mouth when placing it third behind two cars that have never come to market – and completely omit the analogous upgrade of an existing plug-in car, in fact to date the best-selling plug-in vehicle in US and the world. Yes, why leave out the Nissan Leaf? It’s pretty clear that the Leaf Gen 2 is at least as important as the PiP Gen 2. Moreover, after incentives (at least for the first 1-2 years before incentive might run out) the Leaf Gen 2 will price similarly to the PiP, possibly even cheaper. And of course, you’re also leaving out the Volt Gen 2, which GM seems determined to market more heavily. And then there’s the Outlander PHEV, already having a huge footprint on the global EV market, and coming to the US concurrently with the PiP. In short, in my list the PiP Gen 2 is at best fighting for #5 on this list, and that’s in the US. Outside the US there are plenty of other at least as important plug-ins, such as the Golf BEV/PHEV versions, the Renault Zoe, and several blockbuster EVs… Read more »

I don’t much care for the plug-in hybrids. I prefer a BEV. It will be interesting to see how popular the Prius Prime will be…

Agree David…but it will likely be #1 (as sad as that is in many respects). The Prius is the ultimate “known quantity”. Just like Camry and Accord buyers are on auto-repeat with regard to purchasing subsequent generations of each, I believe Prius buyers are in the same mode at this point . Now add in the “even better mileage and eco-cred” and the “look, its a giant smart phone with a big screen…just like a Tesla!” and this thing will sell well.

Heck, half the buyers won’t even be AWARE of the existence of competitors like the Volt!

I don’t often chime in randomly, but I just wanted to say, I almost (almost) penned an article similar to this…so points to David for putting it out there. The basic premise was the same. The Toyota Prius Prime isn’t for “us”, the hardcore, the uber-well informed EV enthusiasts/advocates. It is for the masses, and it is for those who have a relationship with Toyota, and specifically the Prius brand. Robert above made a comment I often do myself when we see a product like this – “gateway drug”, the Prius Prime (like the original Prius PHV) will do move to get new people into a plug-in than any other car over the next 2 years. More important than anything other factor perhaps, is what happened (just before Toyota ran out of inventory in mid 2014, then shut down completely in mid-2015), all Toyota salespeople figured something out when the MSRP came down a couple thousand bucks…that inside a lease, the Prius PiP was less money than a base Prius. Now that the Prime has double the pack (8.8 kWh) that gives it a $4,168 federal incentive. This means that even if it has a starting MSRP of ~$31,000, the… Read more »

I meant to add in my own comment that even the smaller battery, and thus the smaller federal tax credit is to the Prime’s advantage in some ways. Lots more people owe $4000 in federal taxes than $7500, and thus can get the full tax advantages outside of a lease. My bet is that lots more people buy Prii than lease them.

Good point.

Totally agree. The only catch is the fact that it seats 4 instead of 5. Besides that, this thing would be an absolute home run (just not with the enthusiasts that come to a site like this).

It seats 4? That immediately throws a wrench into the arguments made by David (and Jay here in the comment). If you invoke consumer inertia, you cannot ignore the inertia of buying similarly-seated cars. Many Toyota/Prius loyalists will hesitate before going from 5 seats to 4, even if they rarely use them. Since the laws of large numbers hold here (again, this is what the “PiP 2 will be King!” argument is all about) – I seriously doubt that nationwide, the Prime will break 20% of Prius sales. Surely no more than 30%. Besides, Prius sales are on a steady decline. Green-aware buyers are willing to give plug-ins a bigger chance, and the sometimes-greenish or gas-$$-saving crowd opts for cheaper high-gas-mileage compacts and midsizes. So: in the first full calendar year of sales (2017) the Prime will try to eat out of a diminishing pool of Prius loyalists, while facing the Bolt, a well-established Volt Gen 2, the Outlander PHEV, likely also the Leaf Gen 2, a couple of cheaper Korean PHEVs with better specs (although likely a smaller touch-screen 🙂 ), Tesla Model 3 mania – and I’m probably forgetting some on the list. To sum it up: the… Read more »

Jay, I think (as usual) I agree with the majority of your comment here… With two potential exceptions:

1) The four seat configuration may limit sales. It certainly was the reason many avoided the Gen 1 Volt; we’ll see what five seats will do for Gen 2 Volt.

2) You said it looks better, which I can’t agree with. Of course, looks are subjective, so you get a free pass here, haha! 🙂

Yes indeed, looks are definitely subjective.

And just so we are clear, I meant “looks better” in relation to the standard Prius sitting beside it in the Toyota showroom floor…not to other plug-ins in general.

It’s not my favorite EV design by any stretch…although not the worst either, (=

Haha, yes, fair enough Jay. One thing I don’t like are all the Mirai-like design cues personally, but I suppose this still looks better than the standard Prius 😉

David, let me join in the praise for a well done article — though you did miss the HOV sticker point, as someone else said.

There were 122,000 regular Prii sold in the U.S. in 2014. The people who want to drive a high MPG car will immediately glom onto the advantages of a PHEV, and I can see almost all of the regular Prius buyers converting to the Prius Prime in fairly short order. Toyota will find it hard to ignore that customers seem to like plug-ins, which will lead them to think about adding more. Then, Prime Gen 2 will bump the AER up to 50 miles due to customer demand.

Though PHEVs aren’t for the BEV purists, they’re a great bridging mechanism and gateway drug to the all BEV future.

My point is still; lack of perspective. In three years I’d be embarrassed to own this car when there are multiple 200+ mile range EVs on the road. Of course, Toyota has always been committed to slowing down the transition to EVs to retain their sales momentum in hybrids.
However, if they were to show up with a small van or utility truck that had this 120 mpg feature, it might be interesting.

If you’d be embarrassed to own this car in 3 years, it’s not meant for you.

There are tens of thousands of plain-old ICE-hybrid Prius drivers who aren’t the slightest bit embarrassed to be driving a car that gets 50+ MPG. In fact, many of them take pride in their MPG numbers.

Most consumers don’t look at this in such a binary fashion, where you are either a good guy charging your BEV from solar panels on your roof, or a bad guy that’s using filthy coal/natural gas/petroleum to drive your car.

The problem is there’s nothing special about this car. Only Toyota fanboys think it is. The first gen Volt beats this car in every way possible and it’s 5 year old tech already! Most people don’t do their research, if they did they would never buy this car. 55mpg is a joke in 2016, nothing to brag about, maybe back in 2009 it was. With gen 2 Volt offering 53 miles all electric and way better performance and the 200+ BEVs coming out why on earth would any rational consumer buy this?!?

Volt 1 does not beat Prius Prime in every way possible. Not by a long shot.

Some things that Prime is better for:
– better gas efficiency
– better electric efficiency
– more cargo, more head/leg room for back passengers
– more safety tech
– (probably) better handling

22 miles electric…is this 2011

No, the numbers are not equal. It’s 1989 less.

This article is very well done. I just want to add two things.
1. The Prius Prime is better looking than its brother Prius.
2. There are no more Green HOV stickers in California. That was a major initial demand driver for CA drivers who would otherwise buy a regular Prius.

I’m not sure how one arrives at the conclusion that the Prius Prime is the 3rd most important plug-in. Specifically, if you’re playing the brand name card to put it ahead of the Volt, why wouldn’t you do the same to put it ahead of the Bolt?

If you’re evaluating cars on the merits, the Volt is clearly better than the PP. If you’re not evaluating cars on the merits, but on the badges, the Bolt still has the same badge as the Volt.

Excellent article. Looking forward to more from this author. Too many comments above are the same as mine, so I’ll defer to others.

Mr. Murray writes that the “Prime” is a completely different car from the standard Prius. It appears to me that Toyota has modified the body and interior from the “Mirai” Fuel cell vehicle. The front styling and the dash pictures look very similar to the Mirai, at least IMO. Plus the Mirai is also a 4-seater. Does anyone else see the resemblance?

David, great article. But you would be remiss not to mention that the Prius Prime uses a heat pump for its climate control system, which if I’m not mistaken is a first for a PHEV or EREV (correct me if I’m wrong). The EPA calculates the Volt’s 53 AER and Prius Prime’s 22 AER without running the the heater or AC. When it’s cold or hot enough outside to use the climate control, the Prius Prime should take less of a hit to AER than a Volt, which would be using a resistive heater or less efficient AC compressor. While the AER gap between the Volt and Prius Prime wouldn’t be eliminated in cold or hot weather, it would be lessened. The question is how much? In densely populated cities with extensive public transit, like NYC, Chicago, Boston, and Philadelphia, and their surrounding suburbs, cars have different use pattern as opposed to the rest of the U.S.. Many people who live in the above cities use public transit for their commute to work, and their after-work errands require traveling relatively short distances since everything is lot closer and bunched together than in more rural areas. A 22 mile AER might… Read more »


Good article. I certainly am not about to say anything bad about the Prius. We still have one—an 08— and it has 100,000 miles on it. Cost of operating this car has been phenomenal. We also owned a 2012 Volt which I really liked.

The Prius has probably taken more carbon off the street than any other vehicle including Tesla.

However I will disagree with one of the articles premises: loyal Prius owners will by the Prime. I am a loyal Prius owner but I will not buy the Prime.

I will buy a Chevy Bolt to supplement our workhorse Prius and when the Model 3 is out I may switch to that. If I had to buy another Prius I would buy the Prius 2 ECO that gets 58 MPG and has no plug.

“The first is that it carried the Toyota Prius name badge, ”


“The second advantage is that it was easy to convert regular Prius buyers to Plug-In buyers at the dealership level. ”

Not really. People will just buy the one without plug..

The biggest factor you missed was the Carpool sticker now ran out…

Unless they touted post incentives price below similar priced Prius, why would anyone buy it?

It does look slightly better but lacks 5th seat and the last piece of puzzle is its MPG in gas mode and performance.

I thought the original PIP was basically a Prius built for CARB and sold to CA buyers solely for the HOV sticker. I still think that.

This one appears more interesting. We’ll need to see the price point, the interior room, and also the crash test results (the previous generation Prii had some real problems there for some of the models). But I can see situations where this would really be useful. For example, someone who does very little driving on the weekdays but needs to make long trips on the weekends. Long trips make even an EV like the Bolt less practical unless you can be sure of a charge during the trip and don’t mind waiting for the time it takes. The Prius line has been highly reliable and also highly utilitarian in terms of interior space.

“This one appears more interesting. We’ll need know the interior room,”

It is less than the std Prius. Rear cargo floor has been raised

A person who pays $6,000 more for a Plugin would like the model to look different so that people who see it will credit the owner for going green and is also easier for him to sell the vehicle.

If Toyota has invested Time, Money & Effort to give it a distinct look in both the front and the back, then the company will also try hard to sell as much as possible.

Thanks to Toyota for doubling the range and also the interior space of Prius Prime will be more than that of Prius PHV.

And many extra features were added like a big screen. Best of all, its priced at the same 30K as the older model.

Definitely it will sell and on seeing this the Chevy dealers will also sell as many Volts as possible.

And Hyundai is also joining with their Ioniq. Wow, its all wonderful.

The “green cred” was a major factor in selling the Prius (it was a top seller in the two most expensive zip codes in CA, amidst $80k Porsches and Benzes), so I agree that distinguishing it from the normal Prius will help. However, I think the Model S has removed most of the wind from those sails, at least in the upper income brackets.

As far as size goes, from what I can tell the PP has less cargo and seating that the PiP, so I don’t see how it would have more interior room.

I always said the original PIP wasn’t given a fair shake by the ‘ev community’ (or at least the self – styled one), not even much ‘press’ coverage.

Meanwhile it was the second most popular plug-in next to the VOLT. Teslas are popular elsewhere but my area is in general too poor to afford them.

This car is so much of an improvement over the first PIP that it can hardly become anything other than a Best Seller.

I’m glad the rest are finally seeing this.

The Bolt is going to outsell the Volt and Prius Prime in California by a HUGE margin for the next year (2017) because it will be the ONLY White sticker HOV access vehicle available with over 200 mile range and for less than $40,000 in California. GM can sell 60,000 of them if they can make enough of them.

If gm make enought bolts in 2017 to sell 60,000 globally I’ll eat my hat. The problem isn’t the car it’s the whole mentality behind ev’s at gm. Halo cars are great but we need to move on.

GM says it plans to make only 20k-30k Bolts in the first year of production. I don’t know how many Toyota plans to make of the Prius Prime, but it would surprise me greatly if it doesn’t outsell the Bolt, internationally.

Remember, Toyota sells to a fully international market, while Bolt sales will be mainly restricted to North America. GM has already shot European sales of the Bolt in the foot, by re-badging it as the “Ampera-e”. 🙁

I completely agree that this is a very important car. It is a mainstream car, hopefully at a mainstream price, if this car is accepted and sells well we are well on our way to a phev cammry, not to mention all of the other hybrids that the Toyota group make. Toyota more than almost any car company could take us to the next level with ev’s.

Toyota built its empire on standard hybrids. They currently market 13 different models. In the EV world they are an also ran. It is in the company’s best intrest to sabotage EV sales. Expect the Prius Prime to come in at a high price, and imported in low numbers.

The most important plug-ins are all the GM, Tesla and Nissan models. They alone have the suply of batteries and the will to reach mass market levels.

toyota has the opportunity to lease this car at less than the rate of a hybrid prius, but does Toyota have the will?

with only 4 seats, the prius prime will have to compete against a double+ range PHEV from GM Volt and a bonafide 5 seater AWD PHEV from Mitsubishi and a potential game changer 7 seater from FCA!

let alone the 200mile EVs from GM, Nissan and Tesla

essential Toyota will be forced to compete on price, but will they choose to?

also i think a lot of buyers will cross ship this with Hyundai Ioniq.

looks and seating will tend to favour the Hyundai

The truth is that despite their unmatched experience with hybrid technology Toyota got pwned by GM. The Volt is an engineering masterpiece while the Prius Prime is a half-hearted effort which fails to account for the average daily drive distance. For the first time in my life GM has out-engineered the Japanese; proof that American engineers can hang with the best if management unleashes them.

Lots of people may buy the Prius Prime and that is a shame because it would save a lot more fossile fuel if they bought Volts instead.


I’m not loyal to any brand, the better car gets my business no matter who makes it. So far nobody comes close to the Volt in the PHEV segment. 22 miles isn’t enough, especially in winter. I had a gen 1 Volt and felt that the 35 miles wasn’t even enough AER, people want more electric range! If electric range isn’t important to you then you’d buy a regular hybrid.

Hello everyone, long time reader of this site and finally decided to join in on the conversations! Now David, I believe you have an excellent point in this article because customers love the Toyota brand. To add to that, the Prius nomenclature has been a rock star for starting the mainstream, electrified vehicle revolution. Now I fully agree that this car does not have enough EV range compared to other incumbents but I believe that you all seem to forget the present value of buying a Prius, getting great mpg. Toyota wants to have a car that still gets fantastic mpg yet slowly introduce more EV range as it can without jeopardizing the mpg of the car. As much as we want our society to not be gasoline dependent, it still is and getting great mpg is what the Prius name is known for. Now for future thought, customers buying a plug-in hybrid will love the electric drive that they’ll only crave more range. After time, if they own the Prius Prime and Toyota is still holding out on a BEV, then they will most likely go elsewhere to get their BEV. I’m sure most people know what hybrids are… Read more »

Heya EVA,

Just wanted to say “hi”, and great first post, (=

Totally on board with your comment, the Prius Prime will do a lot for getting people otherwise unacquainted with the tech into a plug-in…and that is a good thing, because for the post part, once you own a plug, you don’t go back.

Hi Jay, thank you for the compliment and welcome. I look forward to having some fantastic conversations between you and all the other readers alike.

No 5th seat… Gheez Toyota, what a load of crap. I don’t care about the tgt design characteristics of the car…look at your loyal audience of the Prius. By far, most will not like that 4 seat limitation. It is the same thing that kills the Volt. Very stupid. I currently have a 07 Prius which has been rock solid in most every way. Have been struggling to wait for the Model E for the next new car and honestly thought about the Prius Prime based on having a plug and Toyota quality but that will not happen now. Stupid move on your part.

First, I’ll start by saying I’m the owner of a 2007 Prius with 110,000 miles and a 2011 Prius with 75,000 miles. Before I settled on purchasing my 2011 model, I test drove a Volt and a Jetta TDI (back when they had fabricated green credentials). Although I thought the initial quality of both were higher than the Prius, my decision came down to which would likely have the best reliability over the long run. Is the Prius the cutting edge vehicle it was when it rose to prominence over 10 years ago? No. Are its sales number plateauing? Possibly. The Prime may not have the range of other (P)HEVs, but the new Prius has remarkably more cabin space than the Volt, and better headroom than the Malibu. It’ll drive like a regular Prius if you take a trip and don’t readily have access to a plug. The Voltec platform was never designed to operate that way, and in that sense is inferior in its inflexibility. If Toyota markets it right sales will go beyond existing Prius customer base to people who may have never considered a vehicle with a plug. I suspect the unique styling alone will sell more… Read more »

“It’ll drive like a regular Prius if you take a trip and don’t readily have access to a plug. The Voltec platform was never designed to operate that way, and in that sense is inferior in its inflexibility.”

This criticism doesn’t make any sense, as the Volt is the only PHEV that drives the same whether you are on electric or gas. It’s like saying that you bought an i8 over a Model S because you wanted an EV with really good performance, or you bought a 500e over a Leaf because you wanted a car with the largest dealer service network.

Inflexibility was the key word in that sentence. I know many Volt owners do not wish to have a mechanical linkage from the generator to the wheels, and that’s fine; the Prime obviously won’t be their first choice when seeking a replacement vehicle. For drivers who don’t plug in every day, both the regular Prius and the Prime get ~20% better fuel economy than the Volt. Yes, calling the Volt “inferior” is wording it a little strong, but the Prime has a drive mode that delivers improved MPGe and is not possible in the Volt; what else would you call that?

I don’t see what a mechanical linkage has to do with anything, but yes: when running on gas, there is a mechanical linkage between the Volt’s engine and the wheels.

However, what you said was, “It’ll drive like a regular Prius if you take a trip and don’t readily have access to a plug. The Voltec platform was never designed to operate that way, and in that sense is inferior in its inflexibility.” The word inflexibility makes no sense in that sentence, because the Volt has the same driving characteristics when on or off gas.

To say that the Volt is “inflexible” because the Prius gets better MPG is a confusing usage of that word; “inefficient” might be a better one, but it’s going to be pretty difficult to make the inefficiency argument when the Volt’s real-world gas usage will be a tiny fraction of that of the Prius.

If you don’t like my choice of words, fine; I’ll be concise this time: the Volt is great at being an EV but is terrible when it attempts to be a hybrid. It has never been a direct competitor to the Prius for this reason, et al.

I’d say the Volt is still pretty good when it comes to being a hybrid, particularly if you care at all about driving characteristics.

“it will likely be less expensive than most of the competitors”

To be determined. The PiP wasn’t, especially when you factor in the tax credits.

It would only be PRIME or IMPORTANT if Toyota made it 100% electric. With all the new long range pure electrics it’s time for Toyota to step up and make a real electric car. Hybrids are so last century with gas, oil, exhaust and 2 systems when others are all 100% Electric.
Let’s move on Toyota.

Toyota reliability and brand loyalty, with millions of existing (mostly) satisfied Prius drivers on the road, solid green cred with full electric range sufficient for a large proportion of daily drives combined with excellent over-the-road fuel efficiency which is important for those who do a lot of interstate driving. A mid-size car with adult-size back seats, and look-at-me styling … I agree this will prove to be an important addition to the plug-in economy and it could challenge for highest-selling plug-in vehicle in the coming years if Toyota is prepared to crank up production and to market the vehicle.

The new Prius has some buzz following the awesome Super Bowl commercial and the wild styling. I could see Prius Prime selling 30,000/year in the US, if Toyota pushes, maybe even more. And world-wide the Prime could conceivably be the first plug-in to hit 100,000/year if Toyota is aggressive, though it’s unlikely to go that high.

Though if the US version is a 4-seat car like the Japanese, that would not help.

Adult sized back seats a major plus.

Good point.

I enjoyed reading Dave’s initial article and people’s reactions to it. I particularly appreciated Andrew’s post on 3/25 and Steve’s post on 3/26. Prius Prime appears to me an excellent PHEV and may have an impact as Dave described. I own 2013 Leaf and 2014 Prius Plug-in. It took my wife and I rather significant adjustment of thinking about a vehicle when we initially decided on purchasing a Leaf. We had to tell ourselves to think it in terms of just a commuter car for 38-98 miles per day. Once you accept the concept, Leaf became an attractive option to consider, and has proven to be an extremely reliable and favorite VERY low cost operating commuter car of the family. What we would have paid for our previous ICE car’s gas and maintenance went to cover most of our car payments. The Prius Plug-in was not that big leap of thought for us because we needed a car that can do the distance as well as covering my wife’s daily commute of 6 miles per day. In driving the Prius Plug-in, we learned that the 11 miles of AEV can significantly enhance the car’s overall mpg performance. In the way… Read more »

It’s time to move on to pure electrics folks. Every new car built and sold will be around for an average of 15 years from now. They need to stop making these PHEV transition vehicles, otherwise the combustion thing will never end. Toyota is holding up the transition by refusing to build anything truly electric going forward. Additionally, PHEVs don’t promote fast charging infrastructure. Their fast charging is buying gasoline and therein lies the problem.

I just read that as of January 1st, the maximum rebate for EVs in MA is now $1,500 and that it is only for BEVs [costing less than $50-k] now, and not PHEVs. I like that. I feel that the people who go ‘all-in’ with a BEV earn the rebate. Hybrid and PHEV drivers don’t sacrifice anything and continue to burn gasoline anytime it suits them…so no reward. Plus, The larger battery in a BEV is more costly, making a comparable range vehicle cost several thousand dollars more. Some PHEVs are quite affordable now without incentives, such as the Prius Prime and Hyundai Ioniq PHEV, both base priced in the mid-twenties. The $1,500 rebate helps offset the price differences.