Jun 14, 2006 (From the CalCars-News archive)
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: http://www.hybridcars.com/blogs/power/toyota-warms-up
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/13/AR2006061300213.html 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.