Four shiny new Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid vehicles made their debut at the San Jose City Hall Rotunda on February 15 where Tim Lipman, Co-director of the Transportation Sustainability Research Center, helped kick off a new Bay Area-wide research program aimed at capturing real-world driving data.
Lipman was joined by San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, and Tom Devany, general manager of Toyota Motor Sales for the San Francisco region.
TSRC will provide volunteers with 10 conventional Prius vehicles and 10 plug-in hybrid Prius vehicles for periods of one month in order to collect a variety of information about their experiences using the two types of vehicles in real-world driving situations in northern California.
Participants will be surveyed and additional data will be collected from the vehicles to provide technical, environmental and economic data.
“The key research questions that we are investigating are getting more interesting as the vehicle technology advances,” Lipman told the gathering.
“What are the usage patterns that these vehicles will induce? When and where will consumers charge and fuel the vehicles? And what are the perceptions of vehicle ‘driveability’ and cost?”
A fully-charged Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid vehicle can run on electricity for approximately 13 miles at speeds of up to 62 mph. For longer distances, the vehicle reverts to its hybrid mode, operating as a regular Prius. The plug-in vehicle can be fully charged in approximately three hours from a standard 110-volt electrical outlet, or in 90 minutes with a 220-volt connection.
“This latest version of the plug-in Prius employs a newly-designed lithium-ion battery pack that replaces the previous nickel-metal hydride battery,” explained Lipman. “This battery pack allows the latest vehicle to travel about double what we saw in the previous version.”
He said he expects these partly electricity-powered vehicles to show “significantly reduced” greenhouse gas emissions compared with conventional cars.
The ceremony marked a new phase of the “California Clean Mobility Partnership” (CCMP), a four-year program that brings together two campuses of the University of California, Berkeley and Irvine, with Toyota, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the South Coast Air Quality Management District, the California Air Resources Board, and the California Energy Commission.
“This partnership has enabled us to jointly conduct research over the past few years to better understand and possibly even influence the future societal roles for plug-in hybrid and fuel cell electric vehicles,” added Lipman.