Toyota lays out big green-car push with hybrids, EVs
Tokyo, November 18, 2010
Toyota on Thursday laid out big plans for launching greener vehicles, including 11 new conventional hybrids over the next two years and a Prius-based plug-in hybrid that may cost as little as 3 million yen ($36,050).
One of the hybrids will be a compact car with fuel efficiency exceeding 40 km per litre - the highest for a gasoline-electric model measured under Japanese test cycles, it said.
The world's top automaker has led the industry in cleaner, next-generation vehicle technology, having dominated the hybrid field for more than a decade with the iconic Prius and 13 other models so far.
But with governments tightening environmental and fuel economy standards all over the world, rival automakers are aiming to catch up, particularly with new vehicle technologies such as battery-powered electric cars and part-electric-part-engine 'range extenders' such as General Motors's Chevy Volt.
Not to be outdone, Toyota said it would begin selling a plug-in hybrid based on the Prius by early 2012 mainly in Japan, the United States and Europe, targeting sales of more than 50,000 units a year.
The car, which unlike a conventional hybrid can be plugged in to enable longer-distance driving using only electricity, is expected to cost as little as 3 million yen in Japan, Toyota said. GM has priced its Volt at $41,000, while Nissan's all-electric Leaf will start at 3.76 million yen before subsidies.
With billions of dollars of cash at hand, Toyota is among the few car manufacturers able to spend on research and development across the range of technologies.
In the field of battery electric vehicles, which Nissan and its French partner, Renault, are aiming to lead, Toyota confirmed it would launch a model based on the tiny iQ in the United States, Japan and Europe in 2012, initially targeting urban commuters. It was also considering a launch in China, the world's biggest car market, with road trials planned in 2011.
Toyota plans to begin selling fuel-cell vehicles, which are also all-electric but run on hydrogen fuel, in the three markets from around 2015. Their high cost are a hurdle, but Toyota said it expected to be able to offer the car for a price under 10 million yen - about one-tenth of what the zero-emission vehicle cost at the beginning of the decade.
Toyota is also working on developing next-generation batteries in-house, an ambition that had been held by the group's founder Sakichi Toyoda.
Having established a separate battery division in January with about 100 researchers, Toyota said it had made some progress towards creating a full solid-state battery in a compact package, as well as determining the reaction mechanism of lithium-air batteries.