Toyota is going head to head with rival General Motors in a bid to become the world’s first car manufacturer to launch hybrid vehicles with rechargeable batteries. Toyota is testing the vehicles in the US and Japan.
Toyota is the world’s biggest producer of petrol-electric hybrid vehicles but environmentalists say plug-in hybrids may prove to be cleaner and more fuel efficient. GM has until now been the only carmaker working on a battery-powered hybrid.
Toyota has previously played down the prospects of plug-in hybrids, saying consumers preferred the convenience of vehicles that did not need to be recharged.
However, the company has confirmed it is providing prototype versions of the batter-powered cars to researchers at the University of California and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport has approved the testing of the vehicles on public roads in Japan.
Toyota says in a statement: “Although there is much work to be done with plug-ins, we see this pilot programme as a significant step in the advancement of the technology.”
Toyota has sold more than 1 million hybrid vehicles worldwide, including 750,000 Prius cars (pictured).