Toyota unveils new plug-in Prius

Japanese manufacturer Toyota has announced its latest plug-in Prius model will hit showrooms in 2011.

The Prius is Toyota' s first car to be equipped with a more powerful lithium-ion battery - making it more environmentally friendly than the regular Prius because it travels longer as an electric vehicle.

The hybrid can travel 14.5 miles as an electric vehicle on a single charge, and can achieve an average of 35.4 miles on a litre of fuel. 

The car maker said from this month until the first half of 2010 as many as 600 cars will be available for lease in Japan, the US and Europe: 230 in Japan, 150 in the US and 200 in Europe respectively.

However, the company has not yet disclosed any pricing details about the new  plug-in Prius.

According to Toyota's executive vice president Takeshi Uchiyamada, many hurdles remain for electric vehicles to become widespread  - including limited cruising range and the high cost of batteries.

He said: "We have been working on developing efficient powertrains to be able to use oil as efficiently as possible."

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