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Toyota Plans Hybrids for all Product Lines

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James B. Treece

Automotive News

August 15, 2008 - 11:24 am ET

UPDATED: 8/15/08 1:08 p.m. EDT

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Toyota Motor Corp. is "real confident that by 2020 we'll have hybrid models in each of our product lines," said Justin Ward, advanced powertrain program manager at the Toyota Technical Center.

Toyota estimates its sales of more than 1 million hybrid vehicles have saved about 7 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions, Ward told the Management Briefing Seminars here today.

"You can have a positive impact today through hybrids," he said.

Ward reviewed Toyota's progress on alternative powertrains and the challenges that remain.

Toyota's latest fuel cell vehicle -- the FCH-ADD, for Fuel Cell Hybrid-Advanced -- has a cruising range of more than 500 miles, double that of Toyota's previous-generation model.

Toyota had set a goal of having the fuel cell function in temperatures as low as 4 degrees Fahrenheit. "It was far below that last winter," when the car "survived three freeze/thaw cycles" in cold-weather testing, Ward said.

He joked that the car survived better than his test crew. When crew members complained about the conditions, he offered them a break: a chance to do several weeks of testing in the Mojave Desert.

Mountains to scale

Challenges remain. He said Toyota has made "huge progress" in fuel cell stack durability, but "we're not anywhere near where we need to be." The fuel cell stack is heavy, and costs are high. And questions remain, such as: "Where does that hydrogen come from? How do you store it and move it around?"

Ward's presentation also took some subtle swipes at other carmakers' leading efforts in alternative powertrains.

Turning to diesel engines, for example, Ward said that even with the coming Euro 5 and Euro 6 standards for nitrogen oxide reduction, diesels are "not going to be as clean as" the Toyota Prius in terms of NOx emissions.

He also addressed plug-in hybrids, an area where General Motors is placing a huge bet with its Chevrolet Volt.

Even if a plug-in hybrid gets its charge from carbon-neutral sources such as cellulosic ethanol and sunlight-based photovoltaic energy, other issues remain, he said. Those hurdles include the cost and life of the batteries and the car's range.

"Is 40 miles all you need?" he said. "Is it 20, 50, 200?" The debate often turns to a study that found that 70 percent of commuters drive 40 miles or less a day, he said.

Other technologies needed

"That number looks fantastic," he said, "but you're only offsetting about 35 percent" of the total miles traveled and energy consumed because covering those daily commutes doesn't cover all the driving Americans do, such as weekend trips. "We're going to need other technologies that offset the other parts" of vehicle usage.

In addition, he cited a study by Simon Mui of the EPA. It showed that if 4 million plug-ins recharge solely at night, that would take advantage of a significant dip in electric demand overnight.

But, Ward noted, an examination of the source of that nighttime electricity shows that almost all of it comes from coal-burning plants. That reduces the positive impact on CO2 emissions from those vehicles.

Said Ward: "We have to understand the true nature of where that energy is coming from."

Ward is based at the Toyota Technical Center is suburban Los Angeles. The center is a unit of Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America Inc.

Link: http://www.autonews.com/article/20080815/A...paign_id=alerts

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I would be more impressed to see Toyota dedicate themselves to offering some real style in all their product lines. The hybrid deal is more or less a given considering "the green halo" the company has bestowed upon itself.

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