Toyota and EDF Energy have been awarded UK government funding to support a trial of up to 20 plug in hybrid vehicles (PHVs).

The trial will start in London in 2010 for a period of up to three years. The plan is to lease the vehicles to a mix of public bodies and private companies including the Greater London Authority (GLA) group and the government's Car and Despatch Agency whose services include providing chauffeur-driven cars to politicians and officials.

Based on the automaker's full hybrid technology, the trial PHV will have a lithium-ion battery extending the vehicle's range in electric vehicle mode, allowing for zero-emissions driving.

"Together with our partner EDF Energy we are delighted that our competitive tender for a PHV demonstration in the UK has secured government endorsement and funding. We've been testing a PHV in London since September 2008 and now we have the opportunity to demonstrate a fleet under demanding real-life conditions," said Toyota (GB) managing director Miguel Fonseca.

"Our new PHV complements the newly-launched third generation Prius as plug-in technology extends electric driving mode almost tenfold, offering an even lower carbon transport solution for those customers with that specific need," he added.

Peter Hofman, director of company shared services & integration at EDF Energy, said: "EDF Energy is at the heart of solutions to help combat climate change and has the expertise to help people use their energy more efficiently. That is why together with Toyota, we are delighted that our consortia has received funding and government backing for this trial. I am delighted that we will both be playing such a major role in continuing to develop this innovative technology as part of our ongoing work to make clean electric transport more accessible to everyone."

The trial will assess the PHV's performance in urban driving conditions while also gathering information about the experience of drivers and passengers. This would include an understanding of their habits and preferences when recharging the vehicle - either at home, using a standard electrical point, or at charging points at vehicle fleet depots and elsewhere.

Data collected by the trial will help plan future technology and policy developments and will be shared with Cenex - the UK Centre of Excellence for Low Carbon & Fuel Cell Technologies - and the Department for Transport, which is supporting this project through their contribution to the ultra low carbon vehicle competition.

In conjunction with utility company Scottish and Southern Energy, Ford is providing a fleet of battery electric (BEV) Focus zero emissions prototype vehicles which the energy company and a number of other evaluation drivers will use in the Hillingdon area, on the western outskirts of London.

A consortium of Ford, Scottish and Southern Energy and Strathclyde University will provide the prototype vehicles and a charging infrastructure in and around Hillingdon from early 2010, the automaker the automaker announced this week.

In May Toyota Motor Europe (TME) said it was to lease around 150 units of its plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHV) to selected fleet customers across Europe in the next step towards commercialisation of the project.

France will be the first country to participate in the three-year pilot.

The first wave of PHVs are expected to reach Strasbourg in late 2009.

Earlier this month, a leading Toyota official told just-auto he believed that electric vehicles were a viable option but only as compact commuters using currently available battery technology.