PREVIEW: 2017 Toyota Prius Prime Plug-In EV – Back By Popular Demand

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The top-selling green car in America gets its plug back.


The Toyota Prius is the fuel-sipping green car family now very popular for bashing by EVangelists and the go-fast crowd who originally made it a sport. That doesn’t change the facts. The Prius is the top-selling green car in America (on our planet, actually), and in some markets, it is in the top handful of the most popular vehicles sold, period. Starting in November we get to see if Toyota’s newest EV will have that same magic.

The newest version of the Prius is the Prime. This is the car formerly known as the Prius Plug-in, but with many important changes. Toyota has been teasing it to the public for two years, and now the final details are firmed up, so let’s jump right to the good stuff.

 – Check Out Our Exclusive Images From The Prius Prime Preview

Prius Prime – California HOV Lane Access?

Yes, the Prius Prime will be eligible for California HOV lane access with a single occupant.  The state went back and forth on its green sticker limits. Without a doubt, when California limited the stickers initially it hurt the Prius Plug-in sales and may have been a big reason Toyota stopped promoting/producing the vehicle. The limits the state put on these stickers were removed September 13th, 2016.


Prius Prime – Prices and Perks

The new four-passenger Toyota Prius Prime will start at $27,965.  There will be three trims, and every trim includes navigation.

  • Mode 1235 Prius Prime Plus $27,965 including destination
  • Model 1237 Prius Prime Premium $29,665 including destination
  • Model 1239 Prius Prime Advance $33,965 including destination

As an electric vehicle, the Prius Prime will have a $4,500 federal tax deduction available to those who have that much to deduct, but not so much that the alternative minimum tax negates tax deductions.  Also, states will kick in more taxpayer dough to help offset this electric vehicle’s cost. We expect that the California rebate will be $1,500.

Thus, a buyer who qualifies for all of the available rebates in California will pay roughly $22K to $28K for a Prius Prime. This price will undercut those of the soon to be released Chevy Bolt EV and the so far imaginary Tesla Model 3. The Prius Prime is also slightly lower in cost than the Chevy Volt.


The Prius Prime price also includes two years of maintenance (or up to 25K miles). This has an approximate value of $500. Those who are under the mistaken impression that cars like the Tesla Model S have lower maintenance costs than the Prius family should check the math. Car and Driver was charged $725 for the one-year maintenance on its Long-term Tesla Model S test car (not including tires).


Prius Prime – Range, Charging Times, EV Tidbits, Fuel Efficiency and Fuel Economy

Although the EPA has not yet loaded the Prius Prime at, Toyota expects that the Prime will earn an MPGe of 124. When operated on gasoline only, the Prius Prime is expected to earn a 54 MPG combined EPA rating on regular unleaded gas. Do the math in your area, but where we live, that means the Prius Prime is less expensive to run on gasoline than on electricity (today).

One way Toyota keeps the Prius Prime efficient is by keeping the weight down. The Prius prime’s 3,375-lb weight is about the same as most midsized cars. The carbon-fiber tailgate is one way that low weight is achieved.


Range is 25 miles on EV power alone, though most who buy the Prime will not use it that way, because it is not the most efficient use of a vehicle with both gasoline and electric power.

Unlike past plug-in hybrids, this one can operate at up to and beyond highway speeds on electricity if the driver wishes to do so. Top speed in EV mode is 84 MPH. The Prius Prime has a total range of 640 miles when starting off with a full tank of fuel and a fully charged battery.

Unlike EVs with large batteries, the Prius Prime is fully charged on a normal home or garage 120-Volt outlet in about five hours (preferably dedicated to the car). That means that owners don’t have to install any special EV charger in their home. We estimate that the savings from this are about $2,000. Owners that install a 240-Volt plug in their garage will be able to top off their battery in about two hours.


Prius Prime – Trims and Features – Safety

Toyota’s three-trim grades will keep things simple for buyers. Toyota is making a lot of features standard in the Prius Prime. Every trim has incredible technology smart-key entry and included navigation. The upgrades focus on amenities. The base trim called Plus has the smaller seven-inch screen. The Premium adds the huge 11.3-inch tablet, and the Advanced gets the tablet plus JBL audio and automatic parking. There are no factory “options” for the Prius Prime.

On the safety side, the Prius Prime will have standard forward collision prevention with auto braking on all trims. As far as we can tell, it is the only green car on the market with this technology standard. The new 2016 Prius has already aced its crash tests and was awarded the industry’s highest rating of Top Safety Pick Plus. We are unsure if this rating will automatically apply to the Prime, or if IIHS will do a separate test. In any case, the Prius has proven itself one of the safest cars on the road in real world crash analyses.


Prius Prime – The Surprise History The Media Ignored

The Prius Plug-in was introduced in early 2012. It was one of the first in the new generation of electric vehicles in America and one of the most popular. In 2012 it was the number two selling EV in America. In 2013 and also 2014, it was the fourth most popular of the 22 EVs for sale in the U.S. In both 2013 and 2014, it was the third most popular affordable EV, and in many months it was the top-selling EV overall. During the three years that both it and the Tesla Model S were being actively sold (July 2012 through late 2015) the Prius Plug-In outsold the Tesla Model S in thirteen different months and in some months (May of 2014 for example) the Prius Plug-In outsold the Tesla Model S by more than 2 to 1.

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John Goreham

John Goreham