UC campuses to test Toyota plug-in hybrid cars

Posted by Humphrey Cheung

Berkeley (CA) – Students and researchers at two University of California campuses will soon get to test out plug-in hybrid car prototypes from Toyota.  The automaker will supply the cars, which run initially on charged batteries, to UC Berkeley and Irvine for road testing.  Commercial plug-in hybrid sales are still several years away.

Toyota is the leading manufacturer of regular hybrid vehicles which run on both electric and gasoline motors.  These cars use electricity from battery packs at low speeds and gasoline at higher speed.  The batteries are recharged during gasoline operation and through regenerative braking.

In contrast, plug-in hybrids charge higher capacity battery packs through standard home electrical sockets.  This allows for longer and faster electric-only operation before the gasoline engine kicks in.  Some Prius owners have modified their current vehicles with plug-in technology and are seeing more than 100 miles per gallon fuel efficiency.

The plug-in hybrid prototypes use two large banks of nickel-metal hydride batteries that, according to Toyota, store much more electricity than the conventional Prius battery.

Toyota has sold more than one million hybrid vehicles with the Prius comprises approximately 750,000 of that total.  The company recently won approval to test out plug-in hybrids in Japan.