Toyota announced Wednesday that a hybrid car you can recharge from household outlets has been approved for public road testing in Japan.
The Toyota Plug-in HV was formally approved by Japan's transportation, and infrastructure agency and the company said that it also plans to conduct public-road tests (video) in the United States and Europe.
The Plug-in HV has a gas-powered engine with an electric motor similar to the Prius and has a maximum speed of about 62 miles per hour (100 kilometers per hour) while in electric vehicle mode. But unlike the Prius, which recharges its battery from an electric generator powered by its gasoline engine, the HV's battery would charge via any household electrical outlet.
According to Toyota specs, the Plug-in HV nickel-metal hydride battery takes approximately 3 to 4 hours to fully charge from a 100V electric source, the Japanese household standard, and about 1 to 1.5 hours to charge from a 200 V source, which falls just shy of the European standard range. No specifics were given on what the charging time might be for North Americans who use 120V.
The announcement puts Toyota in competition with General Motors and Ford, which are both developing electric vehicles. Ford announced in early July that it's starting a program to test hybrid plug-in vehicles with Southern California Edison in California. General Motors, one of the original manufacturers of an electric car, announced at the International Motor Show in Geneva in March that it planned to release the Chevrolet Volt, an electric powered car, by 2010.