Toyota aims to meet the competition and offer a plug-in Prius hybrid with an electric-power range of 60 km (37 miles).

Toyota is upping the ante on its famed Prius hybrid and will be making the model a plug-in vehicle as standard by 2014.

The Prius, once the pioneer hybrid model in the marketplace, is now facing some serious competition from vehicles such as the plug-in Chevrolet Volt/Opel Ampera and the all-electric Nissan Leaf.

The next Prius which will launch in 2012 will feature high performance lithium-ion batteries that will allow it to travel more than 60 km per liter of gas (1.6 liters/100 km or 141 mpg-US), instead of the current model with its nickel-metal hydride battery which travels 38km per liter (2.6 liters/100 km or 89 mpg-US).

Toyota also wants to expand its hybrid and electric car sales overall with the introduction of the plug-in Prius. Cumulative sales of the Prius since its introduction in 1997 have totaled 2 million units. Toyota now sells about 700,000 hybrid vehicles a year (including other models and those sold under the Lexus brand) but wants to increase that number to 1 million by 2015.

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