The future of the Toyota Prius might be strictly as a plug-in hybrid model.
According to an Autoblog interview with Shoichi Kaneko, assistant chief engineer for the Prius Prime, the carmaker may make the next generation Prius Liftback exclusively plug-in hybrid.
The Prius Liftback hybrid is by far the highest-volume and most-successful electrified car sold even while the plug-in version, introduced mid-way trough the car’s third generation, has been a comparative also-ran.
Still young in its product life, the fourth-generation Prius was introduced in 2016 as an all-new model with 52 mpg in five trims, and 56 mpg in the Two Eco.
The company has also shown it is pushing toward a law of diminishing returns in balancing all desired attributes in the Prius while squeaking out as much as 10 percent mpg gains with each successive generation.
“Ultimately, PHEV may be the way to go,” Kaneko said to Autoblog through an interpreter.
This could also build on statements made in 2013 when Toyota was discussing what to expect with the fourth-generation Prius.
“To beat your own record becomes very difficult,” said Managing Officer Satoshi Ogiso who leads the new Prius development project.
The upcoming Prius Prime offers just 22 miles EV range – a mere shadow of the 53-mile Chevy Volt. It is more spacious in the back seat, and in overall volume, however, but otherwise is not a purpose-built plug-in hybrid, being instead a conversion with battery stuffed in limited space under rear seats.
A version of this article originally appeared on Hybridcars.com