Carmaker Tests Its New Plug-in Model In Vermont

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(Keck) Consumers in Vermont can’t buy a plug-in electric car, yet. 

But manufacturers like Nissan, Chevrolet and Toyota hope to have plug-in hybrids or all-electric cars on most dealer floors by 2012.  In the meantime, automakers are still researching how well the cars work in different environments.

As VPR’s Nina Keck reports, Central Vermont Public Service will be test driving Toyota’s new Prius plug-in to see how the car handles in cold weather.

(Keck) Dan Mackey, fleet coordinator at Central Vermont Public Service, demonstrates how to start the Prius that they’re testing for the next four weeks.

Sound of car

(Mackey) "Okay, I’m turning on the power – it is so quiet – kind of tough to get used to.

(Keck) CVPS is the only test site for the new Prius in Vermont. The new model differs from the existing Prius because the new model can be plugged into an electric outlet to recharge its battery. That’s similar to the technology in the new Chevrolet Volt. But it isn’t currently available on a production Prius.

Toyota is testing the car in a wide range of places and with different agencies, including the New York City Department of Transportation, San Diego Gas and Electric, and Georgetown University.   

Dan Mackey at CVPS says it’s a good way to see what consumers think about the car and assess how it performs day to day in various climates.

(Mackey) "I think understanding what kind of impacts on battery longevity the cold and terrain will have is important for Toyota to understand."

(Keck) CVPS’s Steve Costello says testing the car will also provide the utility company with valuable information on how to better meet the needs of its own customers. 

(Costello) "This is one more step in our ongoing efforts to really understand what the market is going to offer customers and then how those vehicles will interact with our grid. And so while we’ll provide a lot of info back to Toyota, we’ll get a lot of info out of this, as well."

(Keck) The new Toyota Prius will likely not be available to Vermont consumers until 2012 – and the price has yet to be set.   

The Nissan Leaf is all electric. It’s expected to be available to Vermont customers in late 2012. The Chevy Volt will hit Vermont showrooms later this year or next.  

But as one Rutland dealer pointed out – the first two Volts are already spoken for. So there’s already demand for the new car.  

For VPR News, I’m Nina Keck in Rutland.

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