Cruising Detroit in Toyota's Plug-in Prius

While Toyota cautiously tests its prototypes, some zealous Prius owners are already clamoring for plug-ins, and paying aftermarket companies $15,000 or more to retrofit their cars as plug-ins.

Published: 17-Jan-2008

As test drives go, this is pretty nerdy. With an early evening snow flurry falling, I am gliding silently through the streets of Detroit in Toyota’s prototype for a future plug-in electric car.

Saul Ibarra, a young and chipper Toyota product specialist, directs me as I negotiate around the rustbelt city’s retro downtown area in the car. It is identical in appearance to a Prius hybrid, but able to drive longer and faster on its battery, which you can recharge from any wall socket via a hefty charger cable, which is stored in the car’s trunk.

Motown is hosting North America’s biggest auto show this week. Notwithstanding the dismal outlook for the U.S.consumer market this year, there are – alongside the legions of sensible family cars and big pick-up trucks aimed at middle America - some breathtaking cars on display.

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