Toyota would certainly disagree, but the 2012 Prius Plug-in strikes me as a compromise, a “me-too” kind of response to the flurry of plug-in hybrid and pure electric vehicles that are just now starting to arrive in showrooms, with Chevrolet and Nissan leading the charge (no pun intended).
To create the Prius Plug-in, Toyota stripped the standard Prius of its increasingly archaic nickel-metal hydride battery pack, replacing it with a larger and more powerful lithium-ion battery that can be plugged in to recharge, and which can supply pure electric propulsion for limited distance and limited speed.
“What’s the big deal,” you rightly ask. “The standard Prius can go as fast as 25 mph on its batteries.” Yes, that’s correct, but only for a short distance. Contrast the standard Prius model’s electric range and speed with that of the Prius Plug-in, which Toyota claims will travel up to 15 miles at speeds up to 62 mph using nothing but the juice stored in its new lithium-ion battery pack, and its clear that the new Plug-in model is an improvement even if it’s not quite competitive.