Toyota and Ford plug in their hybrids

After talking down plug-in hybrids, Toyota revealed a prototype plug-in Prius at the 2008 Detroit Auto Show.

Prototype plug-in versions of Toyota's Prius (top) and Ford's Escape (bottom)

Toyota surprised us with a plug-in hybrid Prius on the floor at the 2008 Detroit Auto Show. The company has resisted the plug-in hybrid movement previously, citing the fact that you don't need to plug in the Prius as a virtue. But there has been quite a bit of interest in plug-in hybrids from individuals and even power companies.

Plug-in proponents claim to get 100mpg (2.4L/100km) by modifying Priuses and recharging the batteries when the cars aren't being used. Toyota seems to have finally given into the plug-in pressure, starting up its own plug-in program and handing over a couple of prototype plug-in Priuses to the University of California. At the Detroit Auto Show, Toyota not only had a plug-in Prius on the floor, along with an informational display, but it also had two running around the city as VIP transportation. The plug-in Priuses still use Toyota's hybrid system, but have been modified with an additional nickel-metal-hydride battery pack, increasing electric running range and speeds.

Ford also got into the game, showing off a plug-in version of its Escape Hybrid, which isn't sold in Australia. Ford is working on the plug-in technology in conjunction with the Southern California Edison power company. The plug-in Ford Escape Hybrid uses lithium-ion batteries, giving it fuel economy of 120mpg (2L/100km), according to Ford.

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