Toyota’s 2017 Prius Prime Plug-in Hybrid is now on sale in the UK. Last week, to accompany the vehicle’s release, the company released the full details of the new model, which marks the first time a Toyota vehicle has featured a carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) rear hatch. Using carbon fiber reduces the car’s overall weight, while a dual-wave rear glass design helps cut drag.
“This strong yet lightweight material makes opening and closing the hatch effortless,” Toyota wrote in its latest brochure describing the vehicle. “Advanced aerodynamics and lightweight materials … help increase efficiency and elevate your drive.”
Toyota was the first to bring a plug-in hybrid vehicle to the market with the original Prius Plug-in. The 2017 edition is a second generation model which Toyota says can cover double the distance of the original and achieve much higher speeds in all-electric, emissions-free driving.
In addition to the composite rear hatch, the vehicle has another first for Toyota – a hybrid powertrain that features a “Dual Motor Drive System,” which increases its power by around 83 percent.
“A highly compact, one-way gear within the transaxle enables the hybrid system generator to act as a second electric motor,” Toyota says. “This boosts EV driving power, giving better acceleration, more engaging performance and a higher maximum EV speed of 84mph.”
The Plug-in Hybrid is also the world’s first electric vehicle with a range-extending solar panel roof. The roof can be fitted with a large solar panel to generate electricity to charge the hybrid battery. When the vehicle is parked, the solar roof charges an intermediate solar battery. When it’s fully charged, it will deliver a pumping charge to the main hybrid battery.
All of these new features contribute to Toyota’s mission to meet strict EPA emission standards. The 2017 model has an EPA fuel economy rating of 133 mpg‑e in all-electric mode – which according to a November 2016 article by Green Car Reports is the highest mpg-e rating of any vehicle with an internal combustion engine, making the Prime the most energy-efficient plug-in hybrid when operating in EV mode.