Plug-In Prius conversion

Last reviewed: March 2011

One of the advantages of today's gas/electric hybrids is that they don't need to be plugged in to recharge their batteries. So why is there so much buzz about automakers over the next few years introducing plug-in hybrids, such as the Chevrolet Volt?

By using larger or additional batteries, plug-in hybrids can run on electricity more of the time than conventional hybrids can, which means they use less gasoline. How much less? We had our 42-mpg Toyota Prius Touring model converted to a plug-in version and found that its gas mileage jumped to 67 mpg overall for the first 35 miles of driving, or until the added battery depleted its charge. That means that a driver with a relatively short commute could dramatically cut gas usage. And according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 78 percent of Americans drive less than 40 miles per day to work and back.

In an era of volatile gas prices, that sounds appealing. And while some companies are converting current hybrids now, few drivers are likely to see the $10,875 conversion cost we paid as being worth it.

Prius fuel economy: Standard vs. plug-in

  Standard Prius
Plug-in version,
battery charged
Plug-in version,
battery depleted
Overall 42 mpg 67 mpg 40 mpg
City 34 56 29
Highway 47 75 47
First 35 miles only.
Posted: January 2009 — Consumer Reports Magazine issue: February 2009