Toyota Prius Prime Is Catching Up to Chevy Volt as Most Popular Plug-in Hybrid

By · April 18, 2017

2017 Toyota Prius Prime

The best selling plug-in hybrid so far in 2017 is the Chevrolet Volt, which offers 53 miles of all-electric driving on a charge before reverting to some use of gasoline. But the Toyota Prius Prime—despite only offering 25 miles of all-electric range—is nearly as popular. The two vehicles currently stand as the second and third most popular plug-in electric cars this year, with the Volt and Prius Prime averaging about 1,850 and 1,450 monthly sales respectively in 2017.

The closeness of the sales race was underscored this week when Kelly Blue Book ranked the Toyota Prius Prime with a higher recommendation than the Volt in its article, “5 Best Plug-in Hybrid Cars Under $40,000.”

Plug-in hybrids provide most of the environmental and efficiency benefits of an electric car while maintaining the same driving range as conventional vehicles. After a plug-in hybrid’s battery pack—smaller than those found in a pure electric car—is depleted, the car continues to run like a conventional gas-electric hybrid using a combination of electricity and gasoline. More media attention has recently been paid to so-called long-range all-electric cars, like the Chevy Bolt (with a B) and the upcoming Tesla Model 3, but plug-in hybrids are widely seen as more affordable and practical.

KBB liked the Toyota Prius Prime for “the time-tested reliability of Toyota technology, a pleasantly rewarding drive, and easy-to-use efficiency.” Meanwhile, KBB said the Chevy Volt is “fun to drive, with a nicely sorted suspension, good steering and decent power from its unique drivetrain.” The publication praised both plug-in hybrids for the ability to charge at home using a traditional three-program outlet rather than needing to install a 240-volt charging station—although given the Volt’s bigger battery pack, a 240-volt charger is advisable.

The key difference between the cars can be seen in the numbers: the combination of price, electric range, and fuel economy after the battery is depleted. Here’s how the two vehicles stack up:

Prius Prime
Starting price: $27,985
Electric range: 25 miles (640 miles total)
Hybrid mode fuel economy: 54 mpg city/highway combined

Chevrolet Volt
Starting price: $34,095
Electric range: 53 miles (420 miles total)
Hybrid mode fuel economy: 42 mpg city/highway combined

Keep in mind that the Volt qualifies for a $7,500 federal tax credit, while the Prius Prime’s credit is $4,502.

The number of plug-in hybrids available to US car buyers has grown to nearly 20. However, the Volt and Prius Prime both offer an overall nice driving package at an affordable price—plus the ability to drive electrically for common daily commutes. The Volt has dominated the plug-in hybrid competition for the past few years, but the release of the new Prius Prime plug-in hybrid in late 2016 now pits the two vehicles against one another.

The Prius Prime gained a little more momentum last week when it was declared the 2017 World Green Car at the New York International Auto Show. The Prius Prime was one of 12 global vehicles assessed by a jury panel of 75 auto journalists from 23 countries. Measures include tailpipe emissions, fuel consumption, and production at an environmentally responsible assembly plant.

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