A plug-in hybrid, on the other hand, makes it possible to recharge the car's batteries without using the gas engine at all. Not only is fuel economy much improved (prototype Prius plug-in hybrids have achieved 100-plus miles per gallon vs. the current's car's 51 mpg) but range is increased and the car can be driven at higher speeds on battery power alone, too. For commuters whose trip into work is less than 30 miles or so each way, it ought to be possible to operate the car entirely on battery power alone - without burning a single drop of gasoline.
Electricity isn't free, of course - but the estimated cost to recharge a plug-in hybrid is still about 30-40 percent less than the equivalent cost (at current prices) of fueling up with gasoline.
A hybrid version of the subcompact Yaris sedan will also join the lineup next year (2011) and this model is anticipated to deliver even better gas mileage than the current Prius due to its smaller size and lower weight - perhaps as much as 60 mpg. (Plug-in versions, if offered, should achieve 100-plus mpgs.)
Prices haven't yet been disclosed but the plug in-version of the '11 Prius will likely be only slightly more expensive than the current (2010) model, which starts at $22,800. The hybrid 2011 Yaris is expected to cost about 10-20 percent more than the current (2010) non-hybrid Yaris, which has a base price of $13,365.