Since July 2010, Portland State University has been one of a small handful of hosts for Toyota's Prius Plug-In Demonstration Project. That project ended last Friday, April 6th when Oregon's fleet of 10 test vehicles was officially returned to Toyota's Parts Distribution Center for transport back to Toyota's headquarters in Torrance, CA.
The Prius Plug-in Demo vehicles were similar to conventional Prius gas-electric hybrids, except these had been built with a lithium battery that provided up to 14-miles of all-electric driving. The pilot project quickly revealed that this additional battery electric mode, in combination with the vehicles 51 mpg EPA rating, could lead to some dramatic "blended" mileage numbers - frequently in the 75-80 mile range sometimes rising as high as 135 mpg when the car was routinely charged during daily commute and errand segments.
During the 21-month project, the vehicles were assigned for 1-2 month test periods to dozens of drivers - retirees, students, commuters, homemakers, and workers - in Portland, Salem, Corvallis, Eugene, Ashland, and Redmond. The vehicles also regularly appeared at auto shows, conferences, county fairs, and the commissioning of EV charge stations.
In their last work assignment, the vehicles participated in a simple but interesting study conducted with employees at Intel and CH2M Hill. Titled "A Plug-In Hybrid vs. Your Car: A Comparative MPG Study," the study set out to capture the fuel economy improvements afforded by plug-in hybrid technology over the gas powered car that the subject owned and normally drove each day. Results from this study are expected in late May from PSU's Office of Research & Strategic Partnerships and could be very timely as gas hovers in the $4.50 per gallon range.
Toyota began selling a consumer version of the Prius Plug-in in early 2012.