Toyota Inches Further Toward PHEVs
- No new specifics here on performance or timetable, but the topic is
moving up higher on the company's agenda. Whereas up until now it was
mainly discussed as a research project, Toyota's North American
President is placing greater emphasis on benefits -- the ability of
PHEVs to "travel greater distances without using its gas engine, it
will conserve more oil and slice smog and greenhouse gases to nearly
imperceptible levels" -- with less of a focus on the readiness of
batteries and on economic "viability".
Toyota Considers Plug-In Hybrids
July 18, 2006 3:48 p.m.
WASHINGTON -- Toyota Motor North America Inc. President Jim Press
said Tuesday the Japanese auto maker plans to pursue a plug-in hybrid
vehicle, touting the long-term potential of gas-electric hybrids on
"Make no mistake about it, hybrids are the technology of the future
and they will play a starring role in the automotive industry in the
21st century," Mr. Press said in a speech at the National Press Club.
Mr. Press, highlighting the company's work on alternative vehicles,
said Toyota is also "strongly considering" a program to develop
flexible-fuel vehicles in the U.S. capable of running on E85, an
alternative fuel made of 85% ethanol.
Mr. Press, who recently became the first non-Japanese president of
Toyota Motor Corp.'s U.S. subsidiary, said hybrid technology has
long-term staying power because it can adapt to several alternatives,
such as clean diesels, biodiesels, ethanol, plug-in hybrids or
hydrogen fuel cells. The auto maker produces the popular Toyota Prius hybrid.
The plug-in being pursued by Toyota would be able to "travel greater
distances without using its gas engine, it will conserve more oil and
slice smog and greenhouse gases to nearly imperceptible levels."
Plug-in hybrids use larger battery packs that can be recharged
through a typical 120-volt outlet, allowing a driver to travel
locally on battery power before the vehicle switches to the gasoline
engine. DaimlerChrysler AG has been developing a plug-in hybrid van.
President Bush has touted the potential of the technology but
obstacles exist, ranging from making the batteries lighter, less
expensive and more durable. Some observers have expressed concern
about the ability of the electrical grid to support the vehicles, but
supporters say most plug-ins would be recharged at night.
Amid discussions among General Motors Corp., Nissan Motor Corp., and
Renault SA on forming an alliance1, Mr. Press said Toyota has had a
"good working alliance" with GM and shares operations at a Fremont,
Calif., plant and conducts research on advanced technology.
"I can't speculate on what will happen if GM and Nissan come
together, but I think it illustrates just how tough and expensive it
is to compete on a global basis as well as the consistent need for
efficiency in our operations," he said.
Toyota is expected to soon surpass GM as the world's largest auto
maker by sales volume. Mr. Press said the health of GM and Ford Motor
Co. was crucial to the auto industry. "I firmly believe that GM and
Ford will both come back stronger than ever and be very successful.
And that's important because they are vital to our industry and our
national economy," he said.