Toyota’s Prius to Become Top Japan Seller — Ever

By dancurranjr On December 7th, 2010

It’s probably not rocket science to suggest that Toyota Motor Corp.’s hit Prius hybrid will grab the top spot in sales by model this year in Japan. After all, it’s been the No. 1 seller for the past 18 straight months through November.

But few would have predicted that the apparent prince of eco-cars would be so mighty that it would become the best-selling model in the history in the country, beating the 20-year-old record posted by a Toyota mainstay volume model: The red-hot hybrid is set to unseat the Corolla to become the biggest-ever annual volume vehicle in Japan. Toyota sold 297,563 Priuses in its home market in the first 11 months of the year. That January-November number is just 2,445 short of the country’s record annual sales by model of 300,008 vehicles logged by the Corolla in 1990, and as the Nikkei business daily suggests, even allowing for an industry-wide sales slowdown, the Corolla record is about to be overtaken, since Toyota has sold at least 20,000 Prius cars every month this year so far.

This will be some milestone. While the Corolla record came when Japan’s overall auto sales posted an all-time annual high of 7.78 million vehicles, for this year, auto sales will likely come to around 5.0 million, 36% lower than the 1990 record.

Meanwhile the Prius’ global performance shows a strong 36% jump in sales to 438,270 in the January-October period, according to the latest available data from Toyota. Its domestic sales accounted for a big chunk of 63% of the overall sales in that term, helped by government buying incentives to spur sales of fuel-efficient vehicles.

But for every silver lining there’s a cloud: A question remains as to how Prius sales will fare, like the rest of the Japanese industry, now that the government aid program has expired. And in a slightly worrying sign, Prius sales have turned lower each month on a year-earlier basis since September, when grants expired.

SOURCE: WSJ

Chevy Volt Leapfrogs Toyota’s Prius to Become MPG King

By dancurranjr On December 6th, 2010

Toyota has long held the top spot when it comes to hybrid gas mileage. Hybrid cars from the likes of Honda and BMW may sport cool lines, but they couldn’t beat the mileage that the Prius offered. According to the EPA, the Chevy Volt has now eclipsed the hybrid king with an estimated 60 mpg rating.

The problem with new hybrid or EVs is that the technology behind the cars isn’t well known to many consumers. The EPA hopes to sort out the issue by creating fuel economy ratings that represent battery-only, gas-only, or a gas and battery combination. In the case of the Volt, that familiar black and white sticker will say that the car can get 93 miles-per-gallon-equivalent (mpg-e) and 37 mpg from the gas motor.

While these numbers may not top the Leaf’s electric-only 99 mpg, the Volt’s gasoline engine may sway many car buyers. Chevy has been pushing the fact that the gasoline motor can relieve range anxiety in drivers because there simply isn’t a reliable nationwide network of charging stations. If there’s no network drivers may stuck within a small radius of their home charging station. In fact, Chevy is so obsessed with the range anxiety issue that they’ve investigated copyrighting the term.

SOURCE: TaintedGreen

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.