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Are PHEVs Coming or Far Away? Toyota Won't Say

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  • Felix Kramer
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 14, 2006
      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.

      You can add your comments to our blog at:

      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
      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.

      -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
      Felix Kramer fkramer@...
      Founder California Cars Initiative
      -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
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