In October 2009, Toyota became the first automotive manufacture to partner with the innovative SmartGridCity™ project by delivering ten Prius plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHV) to the Xcel Energy’s SmartGridCity™ venture in Boulder, Colorado. The vehicles are the focus of an interdisciplinary research project coordinated by the University of Colorado at Boulder Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute (RASEI), a joint venture between the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the University of Colorado at Boulder.

The SmartGridCity project is one of the most technologically advanced, environmentally sound electricity grids in the world. The comprehensive system includes broadband communications; upgraded substations, feeders and transformers; smart meters; and Web-based account management tools. The project’s goal is to provide increased grid reliability and energy use information.

RASEI, Xcel Energy and Toyota are using this partnership to gather data on vehicle performance and charging patterns, consumer behavior and preferences, as well as electric utility/customer interactions. The locale offers the additional benefit of monitoring high altitude, cold climate performance of Toyota’s first generation lithium-ion battery.

The ten vehicles participating in the project are part of a 150 vehicle demonstration fleet that arrived in the U.S. in early 2010. The Prius PHV is targeted to achieve a maximum electric-only range of approximately 12 miles and will be capable of achieving highway speeds in electric only mode. For longer distances, the PHV concept reverts to “hybrid mode” and operates like a regular Prius vehicle.