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Toyota aims for plug-in hybrid this year

By Micheline Maynard
New York Times / January 12, 2009
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Toyota plans to introduce its plug-in hybrid electric vehicle late this year, a year earlier than originally planned, and a year ahead of the Chevrolet Volt.

James Lentz, president of Toyota Motor Sales USA, said Toyota plans to initially make about 500 plug-in hybrids, which will be made available first to commercial customers. About 150 plug-ins will be scheduled for customers in the United States.

Last year, Toyota' s president, Katsuaki Watanabe, said the company planned to introduce a plug-in hybrid in 2010. The vehicle, which could be recharged by plugging it into a wall outlet, would join other hybrid-electric vehicles sold by Toyota, including the Prius. Toyota will show a new version of the Prius today.

General Motors said it planned to introduce its plug-in Volt by late 2010. The Volt, which will be made in Detroit and powered by a lithium-ion battery, is the centerpiece of GM's efforts to market environmentally friendly cars. The Toyota plug-in hybrid will be built in Japan, where Toyota also builds the Prius.

The plug-ins also will be powered by lithium-ion batteries, Lentz said, unlike the Prius, which will continue to be powered by a nickel-metal hydride battery.

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