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Toyota Prius Takes It to the Next Level With Smart Grid System

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On: Mon, Oct 11, 2010 at 11:05AM | By: Chris Weiss

Toyota Prius Takes It to the Next Level With Smart Grid System

The Toyota Prius is already the best-selling hybrid and probably  the most recognizeable face of the green movement within the automotive industry. That distinction is about to become even more pronounced. Toyota has said that when the plug-in version of the Prius launches in 2012 in Japan, the company will also launch the Toyota Smart Center, a networked home smart grid system that will work toward better energy efficiency.

The Smart Center will link a home's grid with televisions and mobile phones, allowing homeowners to view their consumption, view the charging status of their Prius, and monitor other aspects of power consumption. The system will help homeowners make better decisions about energy consumption, calculating strategies that can cut usage and save money. Toyota aims to use the system and Prius plug-in toward helping homes to become up to 75 percent more efficient than standard homes with gasoline vehicles parked out front.

Unfortunately, for those who own or plan to buy other plug-in cars, the Smart Center will be designed to work only with the Prius Plug-In. If successful, perhaps Toyota will expand the line with a more universal model.

Last month, Toyota launched a "smart village" in Rokkasho, Japan. That village consists of six houses and eight plug-in Prius models that make use of the Smart Center technology. A two-year experiment, the smart village takes it one step further than the Smart Center technology that will be available to consumers in a few years, managing energy that's sourced entirely from renewable systems such as solar and wind. The village is run off an isolated, CO2-free grid, with Toyota's Smart Centers monitoring and streamlining energy usage in each household.

The Prius Plug-In was originally debuted at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show and will hit the market in 2012. Toyota has deployed a test fleet of 150 models in the U.S. The plug-in version of the Prius features the same 98-hp 1.8-liter engine with an 80-hp electric motor as today's Prius. Unlike the standard Prius, the plug-in model is capable of all-electric driving. It can travel for distances up to 13 miles and speeds up to 62 mph under electric propulsion. The plug-in model uses a lithium-ion battery in place of the Prius' nickel-metal-hydride battery. That battery can be recharged in three hours from a standard 110V outlet.


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