Hybrid Toyota Pickups Coming?

By dancurranjr On December 14th, 2010

Toyota may have won a near-monopoly on modern hybrid drivetrains over the last decade, but at least until recently its Hybrid Synergy Drive has been limited to use in car and crossover applications. Sensing the vulnerability, GM, Chrysler, Daimler and BMW collaborated to develop a large V8-based hybrid system capable of powering large light-duty trucks. The resulting “Two-Mode” hybrid system has largely proven to be a bust, as BMW and Mercedes have limited its use to one-time X5/X6 and ML Hybrids.

GM and Chrysler have tried to sell Two-Mode versions of their full-sized trucks and SUVs with little success over the past several years, as relatively low fuel prices and high MSRPs conspired against the hybrid truck segment. Now Toyota may be targeting the hybrid pickup market, as its Hino truck unit has begun testing a hybrid drivetrain for light-duty trucks that it hopes to commercialize by net year.  Greencarcongress.com reports:

The hybrid system, which features a clutch between its engine and motor, offers an all-electric drive mode for the truck. Internal Hino testing showed an improvement in fuel efficiency of a diesel truck by about 50%.

Testing by the Japanese postal service, and several private firms should give a better sense of the efficiency benefits of this system, but that will still leave the question of price. And gas prices. And America’s willingness to buy pickups from Toyota in Detroit-like numbers. On the other hand, it’s not safe to underestimate any Toyota hybrid. If this new drivetrain can do for trucks what Hybrid Synergy did for cars, things could get interesting…

SOURCE: Truth About Cars

More Major Companies On-Board For Future Green Vehicles

By dancurranjr On December 11th, 2010

Every major automaker plans some sort of electric or plug-in hybrid offering over the next several years, a wave of competing technologies reminiscent of the beginning of the automobile age.

General Motors Co. this month will start shipping its Chevrolet Volt, which uses a gas engine to generate electricity when the batteries run out. It will be available for sale in California in December. Next week, Nissan Motor Co., whose North American headquarters are based in Franklin, will launch its Leaf, which is powered only by batteries.

Ford will come out with an all-electric version of its Focus compact car next year.

In November, the Japanese automaker Toyota became the latest to unveil a pure electric vehicle, the RAV4 compact crossover, showing it off at the Los Angeles auto show. It’s scheduled to go on sale sometime in 2012.

In Middle Tennessee, Nissan will spend more than $1 billion to build a lithium-ion battery plant and add a Leaf assembly line at its Smyrna manufacturing complex for the Leaf, with production to begin there in late 2012.

Until then, the company will import Leafs from a plant in Japan that has limited capacity, which means the vehicles will be in short supply until the Smyrna operation goes online.

Others planning to introduce electrics over the next two years include Fiat, Honda, Mitsubishi, Smart and Mini.

“Electric vehicles are finally real and not an R&D project,” said Mark Sogomian, a partner at Ernst & Young.

SOURCE: The Tennessean

Toyota to Offer Hybrid Technology to Chinese Partner

By dancurranjr On December 6th, 2010

Toyota recently ruled out the possibility to start building hybrid cars in China so, in order to be able to compete against powerful names such as Volkswagen and General Motors, the Japanese company is planning to offer hybrid technology to a local partner. A report by just-auto.com hints that the name of Toyota’s future Chinese buddy is FAW Group, which could start production of hybrid models based on Toyota’s resources as soon as 2013.

Toyota will thus supply the know-how, as well as motors, batteries and several other components to the Chinese group, but specific details are yet to be revealed. Still, Kyodo News claims negotiations are still under way, so more information is likely to emerge in the near future.

And although Toyota doesn’t intend to produce cars in China, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the company will ignore the local market. Back in August, Japanese representatives announced that Toyota wants to open its first wholly owned research and development site to increase quality of the vehicles it sells in China.

The announcement was made by Masahiro Kata, the head of Toyota China, during a quality seminar that was recently held in Japan. The executive didn’t offer any additional details regarding the future quality center, but added that the site’s project is currently being analyzed by the country’s authorities and that it will be located near Shanghai.

Of course, an R&D center would be mainly aimed at vehicle recalls, as Toyota still struggles to repair its image after the nightmare it had to deal with this year.

SOURCE: AutoEvolution

Toyota Readies 3 Electric Cars for 2012 Dealer Sales

By dancurranjr On December 4th, 2010

600 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrids are now being driven daily in the U.S., Europe, and Japan. Commercial, government, and university fleets and individual drivers are putting this advanced Prius through its paces. Toyota is targeting 50,000 unit commercial sales in 2012 of this PHEV with a 14-mile electric range. Toyota is discussing a price of over $30,00 for the Prius Plug-in, even though it has only 5 kWh lithium battery pack in comparison to 16 kWh in the Chevrolet Volt with its 40 mile electric range and 24kWh in the Nissan LEAF with its 100 mile electric range.

The RAV4 EV Powered by Tesla was Toyota’s center stage announcement here at the Los Angeles Auto Show. In 1997, 1,484 RAV4 EVs were sold. Remarkably half of these early EVs are still in use and their owners love them. Toyota, which owns 2 percent of Tesla, is bringing back this popular SUV in a stylish new body. It will have an electric range of 80 to 110 miles using 30 to 40 kWh of Panasonic battery cells integrated into a Tesla pack – impressive for an SUV. The body will be built by Toyota in Canada, the drive system by Tesla in California, and the final assembly site has yet to be determined.

In 2012, a stylish city car iQ-based EV will also be introduced in the U.S., Japan and Europe. Launch preparations call for road trials in Japan, U.S., and Europe starting in 2011. Launch in China is also being considered, with road trials planned for 2011.

Toyota’s Future Advanced Energy Storage

Toyota is putting 100 electric SUVs on the road each with a range of over 400 miles. Fleets will include the Port Authority of New Jersey, San Hydro, my Alma Mater University of California at Irvin and other fleets that have 10,000 psi hydrogen fueling stations. TMC is continuing development of a sedan-type fuel-cell hybrid vehicle (FCHV), with sales aimed to start in around 2015 in Japan, the U.S. and Europe. I was impressed with my test drive of the previous generation Toyota FCHV.

TMC is researching development of next-generation secondary batteries with performance that greatly exceeds that of lithium-ion batteries.  Such research is aimed to help bring about the revolutionary advances in battery performance that will be necessary for the broad adoption of electric-motor-propelled eco-cars.

  • Solid-state batteries: TMC has successfully reduced what is known as particle resistance and has made progress toward creating full solid-state batteries in a promising compact package.
  • Metal-air batteries: TMC has determined the reaction mechanism of lithium-air batteries and has clarified its research policy regarding the batteries as rechargeable secondary batteries.
  • TMC established a division charged with studying production of next-generation batteries.  The division, with a staff of approximately 100 researchers, is accelerating its research.

TMC believes that eco-cars can have a positive impact on the environment only if they are widely used.  TMC will continue to improve the fuel efficiency of its conventional combustion-engine cars, which account for the majority of its sales, while raising performance, reducing costs and expanding the company’s product lineup.

Within these efforts, hybrid technologies—consisting of the basic technologies necessary for development of various eco-cars—are positioned as key technologies to achieve both high fuel efficiency and driving performance, and to facilitate the use of various fuels with the aim of creating a low-carbon society through response to the need to diversify energy sources.

Toyota plans to extend its leadership with 11 new hybrids from Toyota and Lexus.

Toyota To Launch 11 New Hybrid Models

By dancurranjr On November 30th, 2010

The world’s top automaker Toyota Motor plans to launch 11 new hybrid models by the end of 2012, the company said Thursday, as the race to build more environmentally friendly vehicles heats up.

The planned vehicles, consisting of all-new and redesigned models, will expand Toyota’s hybrid-engine range — which runs on gasoline and electricity — at a time when rivals such as Nissan are developing all-electric vehicles.

The automaker is eyeing annual sales of more than 50,000 units for a Prius-based plug-in hybrid to be launched by early 2012 in Japan, the United States and Europe, with a price tag of around 3 million yen (36,045 dollars).

It is also planning to launch an all-electric vehicle based on its current iQ minicar, which will be introduced in Japan and Europe, with a China launch also under consideration.

Toyota’s rivals have moved to embrace the nascent electric vehicle market, with Nissan soon to launch its all-electric Leaf, which produces no tailpipe emissions — a car which has become the fulcrum of Nissan’s green ambitions.

But Toyota has so far only dipped its toes into the all-electric market, with its president Akio Toyoda last week offering a cautious outlook, citing as a major obstacle the creation of a convenient recharging system.

His comments came as Toyota showcased its “RAV4 EV” concept vehicle that is on display at the Los Angeles Auto Show in the US this month.

The all-electric version of Toyota’s RAV4 sports utility vehicle was developed with Tesla Motors, the US electric vehicle firm in which Toyota owns a 50-million-dollar stake.

The new plans come as the automaker works to rebuild an image plagued by safety recalls in the past year over unintended acceleration, engine, steering and brake problems. The recalls affected around 12 million vehicles in total.

Toyota added Thursday that it intends to introduce a fuel-cell powered sedan-type car around 2015 in the US, Europe and Japan. It is aiming for a price tag of under 10 million yen.

It is also ramping up efforts to develop next generation batteries that outperform current lithium-ion models.