Toyota and Ford show off plug-in hybrids at the 2008 Detroit auto show.
Wayne CunninghamManaging Editor / Roadshow
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Toyota surprised us with a plug-in hybrid Prius on the floor at the 2008 Detroit auto show. The company has resisted the plug-in hybrid movement previously, citing the fact that you don't need to plug in the Prius as a virtue. But there has been quite a bit of interest in plug-in hybrids from individuals and even power companies. Plug-in proponents claim to get 100 mpg by modifying Priuses and recharging the batteries when the cars aren't being used. Toyota seems to have finally given into the plug-in pressure, starting up its own plug-in program and handing over a couple of prototype plug-in Priuses to the University of California. At the Detroit auto show, Toyota not only had a plug-in Prius on the floor, along with an informational display, but it also had two running around the city as VIP transportation. The plug-in Priuses still use Toyota's hybrid system, but have been modified with an additional nickel-metal-hydride battery pack, increasing electric range and speeds.
Ford also got into the game, showing off a plug-in Escape Hybrid in its display area. Ford is working on the plug-in technology in conjunction with Southern California Edison. The plug-in Ford Escape Hybrid uses lithium-ion batteries, giving it fuel economy of 120 mpg, according to Ford.