PLUG OK license plate
PHEVs Get Spotlight at National Fleet Conference; Changed Tone from Toyota?
May 9, 2005 (From the CalCars-News archive)
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At the annual national Clean Cities Conference in Palm Springs, CA on May 2, an audience of 1,500 key local contacts for fleet sales of alternative vehicles heard:

  • Keynoter Ed Begley, Jr, "I hear there's such as thing as a plug-in Prius -- Toyota's not going to be happy about my saying it, but I'm interested."
  • Anne Korin of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security and SetAmericaFree.org say that consumers get choices in so many areas, and need them in transportation fuels. She welcomed "souped-up hybrids" and pointed out that the existing power grid has sufficient night-time capacity to handle 30% market penetration of plug-in hybrids.
  • Robert Graham, manager of electric vehicle programs at the Electric Power Research Institute say he believed Toyota had already designed a prototype PHEV and "I believe Toyota will build them when the market is ready."

We were delighted that several Toyota representatives, as well as representatives from other auto manufacturers, got a chance to inspect or ride in the EDrive Systems converted Prius during the event's Ride and Drive. I was able to personally tell Toyota representatives that several people who had been undecided what hybrid to buy had written us to say that the PRIUS+ project had been the deciding factor in their purchase of a Prius.

It's too early to say if the growing buzz or internal reviews have led them to be more open to the prospects for commercializing PHEVs, but they appear to have evolved their response.

At several conference sessions, representatives of Toyota were repeatedly asked, "Will your hybrids be able to plug in to recharge for local travel?" Ed LaRoque, National Manager for Advanced Technology Vehicles with Toyota Motor Sales, replied, "We're listening."

This represents at least a change in tone from other recent statements, including these by David Hermance, Toyota's executive engineer for environmental engineering:

"We keep looking at the concept, and at some point it might be feasible, but it isn't there yet,"
(Business Week, April 11, 2005)

"They say this is the next great thing, but it just isn't" ..."The electric utilities really want to sell electricity and they want to sell it to the transportation sector because that expands their market. They have an agenda."
...And Mr. Hermance of Toyota said that batteries today were not durable enough to handle the wide range of charging up and charging down that a plug-in hybrid would need, calling that the most damaging thing you can do to a battery.
(NY Times April 2, 2005)


P.S. Press coverage of the neo-con-green campaign continues with conservatives Gary Bauer and Frank Gaffney quoted in Time Magazine in their support (following on Newsweek and Business Week stories) -- see coverage at http://www.calcars.org/­kudos.html .

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