Are PHEVs Coming or Far Away? Toyota Won't Say
- Are we in "never-mind"-land? We were VERY
encouraged by Toyota's June 13 press release
acknowledging that they have a research program
on plug-in hybrids. R&D is a always welcome. But
reporters at their press conference say (in 2
excerpts below) see Toyota's CEO and spokespeople
still relegating them to a far-off future time of "commercial viability."
Clearly there's a market somewhere between the
$3,000 we say Toyota could sell them for in
production quantities and the $12,000 that
EnergyCS/EDrive/Hymotion expect to charge. Ask
the hundreds of people I've spoken to personally
who will pay almost any price for an unauthorized
after-market conversion -- and the thousands of
soft fleet orders Plug-In Partners has gathered.
The third story below, from LA Times, shows the need to go beyond research.
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Toyota to double hybrid line-up early next decade
By Chang-Ran Kim, Asia auto correspondent
Reuters Tuesday, June 13, 2006
TOKYO (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp. <7203.T>
said on Tuesday it would double the number of
hybrid cars in its vehicle line-up soon after
2010, renewing its endorsement of the technology
as critical to reducing pollution and oil dependence.
Toyota is also working on plug-in hybrid
vehicles, which can be charged at home and
provide electricity, as well as hydrogen-powered
fuel cell vehicles and other technology, but said
they would take many years to become commercially viable.
Toyota Plans to Offer More Hybrid Models
By JATHON SAPSFORD
Wall Street Journal June 14, 2006
TOKYO -- Toyota Motor Corp., seeking to burnish
its image as a provider of environmentally
friendly auto technologies, said it plans to
double the number of hybrid gasoline-electric
powered models by as early as 2010.
Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe told a news
conference in Tokyo yesterday that Toyota will
expand its research of hybrids that plug into an
electric power supply as part of this effort. It
also will continue to pursue a number of
different green technologies for power trains,
the term used to describe the combination of
components that propel a car, from the engine and
transmission to the drive shaft and wheels.
Because they reduce harmful emissions, hybrids
are considered a sound environmental technology.
The premium consumers pay for such cars is rarely
earned back over the course of the car's lifespan
through savings at the pump. So Mr. Watanabe has
been telling his engineers to reduce this premium
by half. Yesterday, he said he has seen "steady progress" toward this goal.
Hybrids generate their electricity from the
friction created in the braking process. Mr.
Watanabe said Toyota is working on a plug-in
version of the hybrid engine that would
supplement that electricity by plugging into an
outlet at home or at a filling station. Such a
hybrid would be able to run further solely on
electricity, and thus reduce levels of harmful
emissions. Toyota declined to say when such a car might be ready for release.
Toyota to Explore Plug-In Hybrids
The Japanese carmaker will make a big push to
boost its offering of fuel-efficient vehicles, a top executive says.
By John O'Dell, Times Staff Writer
June 14, 2006
Toyota Motor Corp. said Tuesday that it intended
to increase research into plug-in hybrid
technology, which it once derided, and to double
the number of conventional hybrid models it sells
globally by early next decade.
The Japanese automaker, poised to overtake
General Motors Corp. as the world's largest
automaker by sales volume, presented a
far-reaching look at its fuel-efficiency and environmental goals.
In addition to increasing to 14 the number of
gasoline-electric hybrid models it offers, Toyota
said, it planned to offer more-fuel-efficient
gasoline engines and to offer its first engines
that can burn mixtures of ethanol and gasoline.
The moves come as Toyota, like other automakers,
gears up to compete in a world of soaring
gasoline prices, diminishing supplies of easily
obtainable crude oil and increased political and
social pressure to reduce oil consumption and auto emissions.
Ethanol can be made from corn, sugar cane or
other plant material. The first ethanol engines
from Toyota which lags behind GM in this area
are to be introduced next year in Brazil, which
has a nationwide system for distributing the
fuel. Toyota also is considering ethanol engines
for the U.S., company President Katsuaki Watanabe said at a briefing in Tokyo.
The initiatives outlined Tuesday, though
"evolutionary rather than revolutionary," show
that Toyota intends to remain a global leader in
fuel efficiency, emission reduction and hybrids,
said Anthony Pratt, senior powertrain systems
analyst for J.D. Power & Associates in Westlake Village.
Toyota's plans were not cheered by everyone.
"Don't tell me about the technologies tell me
how you will use them to reduce global warming
pollution," said Roland Hwang, Berkeley-based
vehicle program director for the Natural
Resources Defense Council. "That's what's missing here."
Toyota has increased its U.S. market share in
part by adding large sport utility vehicles and
pickups. The bigger trucks are less
fuel-efficient than other Toyotas, and the
company's average fuel economy has dropped about
2 miles per gallon in the last decade to 23.5 mpg last year.
That's second-best in the U.S., trailing only
Honda Motor Co.'s 25.1 mpg average. "But it still
means they're behind where they were in 1985,"
Hwang said, despite Toyota's introduction of
hybrids and other fuel-efficiency technologies.
Watanabe said, however, that Toyota did intend to
improve overall fuel economy through the new initiatives.
Environmentalists are concerned because gasoline
engines produce carbon dioxide, a major
contributor to global warming, and the less fuel
consumed per mile traveled, the lower the emissions.
Hybrids, which combine conventional
internal-combustion engines with electric motors
for improved fuel efficiency, have won favor with
environmentalists. But many hope to persuade
automakers to develop plug-in versions, which use
larger battery packs that the owner can recharge
by connecting an onboard charger to a common wall socket.
Such vehicles championed by Southern California
engineers who have retrofitted Toyota's
bestselling Prius on their own could travel 40
or more miles at highway speeds solely on
electric power before the gasoline engine would
cut in and the vehicles would revert to operating as conventional hybrids.
Because the urban driver commutes less than 40
miles a day on average, much of a plug-in
hybrid's life cycle would be spent in
all-electric mode, thus reducing gasoline consumption.
Watanabe's promise to increase research into the
technology "was a little surprising, and pretty
fabulous," said Greg Hanssen, vice president of
Energy CS, a Monrovia company that converts Prius models into plug-in versions.
"I always thought battery costs would have to
come down a lot more, and fuel prices would have
to go up a lot more, for this to click with
Toyota," he said. "So maybe this means they think
both are going to happen sooner than later."
Although Watanabe stopped short of promising to
bring a plug-in hybrid to market, he did say
Toyota "is getting close" to achieving a 50%
reduction in the development and production costs
of conventional hybrid systems for its upcoming models.
That could lead to a steep cut in the so-called
hybrid premium, which adds $3,000 to $9,000 to
the sticker price of models Toyota sells in the U.S.
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Felix Kramer fkramer@...
Founder California Cars Initiative
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