Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Toyota "Looking"

Here is big announcement for Plug-In fans

Toyota looking at Plug-in Hybrids
Los Angeles Times
June 20, 2006

Toyota Motor Corp. says it intends to increase research into the plug-in hybrid technology 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, recently presented a far-reaching look at its fuel-efficiency and environmental goals.

In addition to increasing to 14 the gasoline-electric hybrid models it offers, Toyota said, it plans to offer more fuel-efficient gasoline engines and to offer its first engines that can burn mixtures of ethanol and gas.

The moves come as Toyota, like other automakers, gears up to compete in a world facing soaring gasoline prices, diminishing supplies of easily obtainable crude oil and increased political and social pressure to reduce oil consumption and auto 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 they would revert to operating as conventional hybrids.

Because the urban driver commutes fewer than 40 miles a day, on average, much of a plug-in hybrid's life cycle would be spent in all-electric mode, reducing gasoline consumption and harmful emissions.

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, Calif., company that builds prototype plug-in models of the Prius.


Although company President Katsuaki Watanabe stopped short of promising to bring a plug-in hybrid to market, he did say Toyota "is getting close" to achieving a 50 percent reduction in the development and production costs of conventional hybrid systems for its coming models. "

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