SAN FRANCISCO – Toyota announced a partnership with the University of California to road test two plug-in hybrid cars, according to Agence France Presse. The study to be launched this fall will be the first time a major automaker puts the experimental cars on U.S. roads. UC Berkeley will analyze the behavior of the drivers, and UC Irvine will study air quality and energy use.

By plugging into 110-volt household current, the prototype Prius can cover seven miles per charge in all-electric mode at up to 62 mph. The new Prius will weigh 220 pounds more than its hybrid forbear to accommodate an additional nickel battery, but other specifications will remain the same.

In May 2007, Toyota sold the one-millionth Prius hybrid, half of those in the United States. Sales of the Prius for the first six months of 2007 have increased 69 percent over the same period of 2006, and the company estimates that hybrids worldwide have emitted 3.5 million tons less carbon dioxide than gasoline-fueled vehicles of the same class.

Researchers at UC Berkeley’s Institute of Transportation Studies will be tracking what they believe will be the behavior of early adopters of the new plug-in modified hybrid.

Usage patterns will be tracked over two years during which the prototype Prius will be placed in a company fleet where employees will drive it for both business and personal use. The study hopes to collect data on trip distance, charging location, duration, time of day, and frequency of trips.

Originally posted on Fleet Financials