New Zealand is one of a number of countries chosen to participate in a 2-year global field trial of the Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle.

Toyota New Zealand Ltd. is teaming with Massey University in Palmerston North to test the new technology, with the auto maker receiving three Prius PHEVs.

Two will be placed with Massey University and the third will be used for detailed analysis by Toyota New Zealand at its National Customer Center, also in Palmerston North.

Toyota New Zealand CEO Alistair Davis says Massey was chosen due to the close partnership between the two organizations.

“We have forged a great relationship through helping Massey meet its fleet needs, and Massey’s commitment towards defining a more sustainable motoring fleet solution encouraged Toyota to select it for the trial,” he says.

The trial will provide data for Toyota and for consumers regarding the benefits and challenges involved in the electrification of vehicles, including the overall performance of lithium-ion batteries.

Environmentally, New Zealand is a prime location to test electric-powered cars as 55% of its electricity is generated through renewable hydro systems.

Toyota Motor Corp. has placed about 600 Prius PHEVs in key global markets. Customers include government and other public agencies, as well as electric-power companies.

Unlike the standard Prius, the PHEV features Li-ion batteries that can be charged with normal household 240-volt power.

The Prius PHEV can travel as an electric-only vehicle for up to 19 miles (30 km), achieving highway speeds up to 62 mph (100 km/h).

For longer distances, the vehicle functions as a conventional gasoline-electric hybrid, which means its use is not constrained by remaining battery power or the lack of a battery-charging infrastructure.