Toyota Promises Plug-in Hybrid

Move over, Chevy Volt. You have some very serious competition:

Toyota Will Offer a Plug-In Hybrid by 2010

DETROIT — The Toyota Motor Corporation, which leads the world’s automakers in sales of hybrid-electric vehicles, announced Sunday night that it would build its first plug-in hybrid by 2010.

The move puts Toyota in direct competition with General Motors, which has announced plans to sell its own plug-in hybrid vehicle, the Chevrolet Volt, sometime around 2010.

Katsuaki Watanabe, the president of Toyota, announced the company’s plans at the Detroit auto show as part of a series of environmental steps.

Mr. Watanabe said Toyota, best known for its Prius hybrid car, would develop a fleet of plug-in hybrids that run on lithium-ion batteries, instead of the nickel-metal hydride batteries that power the Prius and other Toyota models.

Given Toyota’s experience, my money is on them to deliver before GM has the Volt ready for the mass market.

Despite its decision to step up its plug-in hybrid development, Toyota is not sure how much more consumers will want to pay for it, Mr. Lentz said. The Prius starts at $21,100. Some after-market companies are charging nearly that much to convert Prius models into plug-ins, he said.

Given that, it is more likely that Toyota would offer plug-in technology as an option on the Prius, at least in the short term, rather than switch all of its hybrids to plug-in models.

Ultimately, Toyota must determine “do people want to plug in their car?” Ms. Chitwood said.

Yes, I want the plug in my car! Sign me up. And as long as gas prices continue to stay high – which I think they will – a lot of others will sign up as well.

24 thoughts on “Toyota Promises Plug-in Hybrid”

  1. Does anyone seriously believe in the Volt? It seems like an extremely ambitious effort, on par with the Hyline and other extreme concepts cars. And GM is promising it in less than two years. Color me DEEPLY skeptical.

    Toyota, on the other hand, has the body of engineering expertise that would allow them to do this, no problem, if they decided it was the thing to do. GM doesn’t. The only way I could see GM pulling this off is if they buy someone else’s hybrid unit. Or else they’ve been hiding a HUGE R&D effort (including prototypes with significant real-world road miles) for the last several years.

  2. Here’s Friend Vinod at gristmill:

    “I have been accused of dissing hybrids. I was mostly discussing Prius-type parallel hybrids and all the support they get, when one can get the same carbon reduction by buying a cheaper, similar-sized and -featured car and buying $10 worth of carbon credits. I was objecting to greenwashing (powered by a large marketing machine) that suggests hybrids can solve our problems.

    Corn ethanol, which has been heavily maligned in the mainstream media, reduces carbon emissions (on a per-mile-driven basis) by almost the same amount as today’s typical hybrid. Despite the similar environmental profiles, one is a media darling and the other is demonized, despite its more competitive economics.”

  3. I suspect GM is using the Volt to distract attention from their lack of hybrids and other problems*, the same way they are hyping Flex-Fuel.

    Meanwhile chances of serious disappointment, come 2010, are ever increasing. We already know the Volt won’t look anything like those cool pics we’ve all been drooling over (due to something called drag coefficient). Next in line, that all electric capacity of 40 miles.

    Not to worry. By 2010, GM will have announced its next big thing: the all hydrogen vehicle, a.k.a. the Hot Air.

    *Including but not limited to: shrinking marketshare (as combined with a shrinking market), lack of tracktion for the much-ballyhooed turnaround plan, too much of everything (too many brands, too many models, too many dealers, too much capacity), etc. etc.

  4. I guess I’m one of those who think GM is on the right track with the Volt. While I think the 2010 production date is probably way too optimistic. As for the technology, it seems to me that most of the tech in the Volt comes from their hydrogen fuel cell cars that they’ve been working on for quite awhile. Also if you read that article about Toyota selling PHEV’s by 2010 you’ll notice that they won’t be selling them to the public but only to large commercial customers. So no, you won’t be able to buy a PHEV from Toyota in 2010.

  5. IN CASE ANYBODY DIDN’T GET THE MEMO, THE SATURN VUE PLUG-IN HYBRID IS SCHEDULED TO COME OUT MORE THAN A YEAR BEFORE THE VOLT AND IS MUCH FURTHER ALONG IN DEVELOPMENT.

    Did anybody honestly think Toyota would let GM swipe the hybrid technology crown? This is a non-announcement in that it was a given.

    For those who think the Volt is vaporware, I’ll let you in on something: there are closer to 1000 GM staff working on this car than zero.

    Check out the Volt’s diesel-PHEV sister concept, the Saturn Flextreme. It is at the Detroit Auto show this week.

    Did anyone catch GM CEO Rick Wagoner’s comments in the DrumBeat yesterday? “We know demand has been outpacing supply for a few years now” or something to that effect…these guys aren’t blind to the writing on the wall.

  6. these guys aren’t blind to the writing on the wall.
    You could have fooled me!

    Let’s review:
    1. Which company dominates the hybrid market with ~75% of all hybrids sold?
    2. Which company is talking about a game-changer (gotta love that swing-for-the-fences approach)? Which company is doing the delivering, as of right now?
    3. Which company is diluting its resources by chasing everything from hydrogen to ethanol to PHEV to you-name-it? Which company is simply focusing on improving an (already impressive) existing product)?

    Call me a skeptic, but I see only one winner here…

  7. 1. Which company dominates the hybrid market with ~75% of all hybrids sold?

    Hybrids are less than 1 in 700 cars on the road right now, and only just recently broke 1 million units total (60 million internal combustion cars are added to the road each year). Then consider the dubious benefits of all the Toyota hybrids besides the Prius. The level of hybrid sales now is indicative of an exercise in back patting and green washing, not making a real difference. The economics and environmental benefits have been marginal until the Prius II, and remain so on every other Toyota hybrid.

    2. Which company is talking about a game-changer (gotta love that swing-for-the-fences approach)? Which company is doing the delivering, as of right now?

    Both companies are talking about game-changers, since both are working towards PHEVs. Yes, Toyota is delivering the HEV Prius. In case you don’t get it, the new generation Prius PHEV is going to be an all-new design just like the Chevy Volt – Toyota isn’t going to make a 7+ yr old design into their PHEV halo car. They both have major major development to do. Why, with climate change and peak oil looming, would a company not think big?

    3. Which company is diluting its resources by chasing everything from hydrogen to ethanol to PHEV to you-name-it? Which company is simply focusing on improving an (already impressive) existing product)?

    Absolute rubbish, Toyota is doing research on the same stuff to a similar extent. The above doesn’t deserve any further reply.

    Have you heard of the concept of development time? Toyota laudably took the gamble and proved HEVs are worthwhile – the other major automakers followed suit and started developing HEVs once there had been a real-world proof of concept on the road for a couple years. Those HEVs they started developing when the Prius’ success took off are the same ones that are nearing production now. The real hybrid wars, where the cars can make a real difference because of the volumes, start now that several automakers are in the game. Finally, I would add that the GM Allison hybrid buses were out before the Prius II and almost surely have had a greater impact on reducing fuel usage in the last 5 years than all those Prius. This is the same 2-mode hybrid tech which will be in dozens of GM vehicles by 2010.

  8. Friend Vinod’s firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers also has its fingers in the PHEV pie:


    Electric-Car Firms Get Star Investors by Norihiko Shirouzu and Rebecca Buckman in the Wall Street Journal [$$$$ite] on January 14, 2008 at Page A2
    :

    DETROIT — The race to develop an electric car is heating up and drawing increasing interest from the same venture-capital investors who helped build Silicon Valley.

    The latest entrant is expected to be announced today at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit when Fisker Automotive Inc. unveils an $80,000 battery-powered luxury car it aims to begin delivering in late 2009. The Fisker Karma, a so-called plug-in hybrid, can go 50 miles on electricity before a small gasoline engine kicks in to generate electricity to charge a lithium-ion battery pack on board. The company has backing from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, perhaps Silicon Valley’s best-known venture-capital firm and a backer of household tech names such as Netscape Communications, Amazon.com Inc. and Google Inc. …

    Thanks to Kleiner’s investment, “we have all the capital we need to move forward according to the plan,” said Henrik Fisker, a Danish-born former BMW AG and Aston Martin designer and now chief executive of the company he helped set up last year. Palo Alto Investors, a venture-capital concern, invested in Fisker in an earlier round of fund raising. …

    Mr. Fisker’s vision is to sell 15,000 electric cars a year. Mr. Fisker said the Karma is environmentally responsible and capable of going 125 miles per hour, consistently. It can hit a speed of 60 mph in 5.8 seconds, equivalent to the performance of a gasoline-powered V8 sports sedan, he said. …

    Silicon Valley money is backing an array of green-car projects that include little-known upstart companies such as Aptera Motors Inc. and Phoenix Motorcars Inc., both southern California companies. Tesla Motors Inc., the high-profile company that is close to shipping a $98,000 electric sports car, has raised $105 million from investors, including VantagePoint Venture Partners, Technology Partners, and Draper Fisher Jurvetson. …

    When his company first invested in Tesla two years ago, “I think people were really questioning, ‘Would we ever have electric cars? Would they be viable?”‘ said Stephan Dolezalek, a managing director at VantagePoint Venture Partners. Now, he says, “it’s no longer about will we, it’s about when.” …

    Mr. Fisker believes his company is a couple of years ahead of bigger rivals because the design of the car has been finalized. “The car we’re showing in Detroit is not your usual show car; it’s actually a preview of the production car you can buy,” Mr. Fisker said. …

    Mr. Fisker wouldn’t say what kind of lithium-ion battery the Karma will use, but he said safety concerns have all been “resolved.”

    *Click Here to go to the Fisker web site and see the car — it looks a lot like a Bimmer

  9. “Heh, so selling hybrids is greenwashing … but talking about them, that’s real progress?”

    Selling a bunch of hybrid SUVs and luxury sedans with minimal advantages and trumpeting their environmental benefits is greenwashing in my book.

    As for the second part, I can’t imagine how you came to that conclusion. Doing actual development on vehicles which will be sold in major volumes and offer a better than marginal benefit is progress in my book. The Prius having high volume sales finally (passing the Explorer this year) IS progress. The Lexus LS600hL 438 hp 20 mpg sedan is greenwashing.

  10. I was half joking. The Prius is Toyota’s (the country’s) best selling hybrid, because people aren’t completely dumb. It is the most “real” and practical hybrid.

    It’s not like Toyota only sells hybrid SUVs (yeah, I’m talkin’ to you, Ford).

    On how much is talk … that’s where we are not sure. GM’s effort is part real and part talk.

    To the extent that they talk up future cars as “competitive marketing” to current cars like the Prius … I think they do us a disservice.

    Well, how about this: I switched to a Prius in 2005. I’ve got 33K miles on it. When some new actual better car arrives, I can switch again.

    I can casually kibitz on the race to plug-ins, but I really benefit from there being a race.

    … and in the meantime I”ve got a good car.

    (this is a just woke up, half a cup of coffee post. it rambles)

  11. BYD is a battery and electronics heavyweight. They did all their own development on the motors and electronics and have their own in-house engine now (instead of licensed Mitsubishi units).

  12. The economics and environmental benefits have been marginal until the Prius II, and remain so on every other Toyota hybrid.
    You fail to say how you would classify every other hybrid on the market, as Odo pointed out. Hint: Scratch the word Toyota from that sentence, and it begins to make sense. Did you even notice the Accord performance hybrid? Didn’t do so well, did it? Perhaps Odo is right, people aren’t quite that dumb.

    Both companies are talking about game-changers, since both are working towards PHEVs.
    Here’s the difference, per GM’s head of North American operations, Troy Clarke: For the Volt we are re-engineering an entire vehicle to be optimally designed to support the architecture. At the Saturn Vue we are adapting an electric drive system to an existing architecture. It’s a quicker way to do it. Substitute Saturn Vue with Toyota Prius and decode.

    Also, tell us, is a PHEV Saturn Vue greenwashing, or no?

    Why, with climate change and peak oil looming, would a company not think big?
    Don’t fool yourself, neither company could give a rat’s ass about either PO or AGW. They are just using these issues to stimulate interest in their products. In the unlikely event that oil prices return to $30/bbl, both will be selling as many big trucks as they can churn out.

    Absolute rubbish, Toyota is doing research on the same stuff to a similar extent. The above doesn’t deserve any further reply
    Whatever. Let’s just say Toyota has a tendency to put a game changer on the showroom floor, and then do the talking.

  13. You fail to say how you would classify every other hybrid on the market, as Odo pointed out. Hint: Scratch the word Toyota from that sentence, and it begins to make sense. Did you even notice the Accord performance hybrid? Didn’t do so well, did it? Perhaps Odo is right, people aren’t quite that dumb.

    We were talking specifically about Toyota. What is your point? I will do exactly what you said, since I believe it: The economics and environmental benefits have been marginal until the Prius II, and remain so on almost every other hybrid model.

    Substitute Saturn Vue with Toyota Prius and decode.

    Also, tell us, is a PHEV Saturn Vue greenwashing, or no?

    I don’t disagree that Toyota’s architecture gives them a head-start – did you read my post where I said there was no way Toyota would let GM swipe the hybrid crown from them?

    And yes, the VUE PHEV is/was obvious greenwash until there are appreciable volumes of Vue HEVs on the roads and the PHEV is doing on-road testing (in both cases, this spring), but like you said, the 2-mode architecture for the Vue PHEV already exists.

    Don’t fool yourself, neither company could give a rat’s ass about either PO or AGW. They are just using these issues to stimulate interest in their products. In the unlikely event that oil prices return to $30/bbl, both will be selling as many big trucks as they can churn out.
    Not fooling myself, I agree completely. I meant that it would be prudent in the business sense to have more efficient vehicles such as HEVs and PHEVs in a future of high oil prices and strict emissions, not solely for the marketing benefits.

  14. Note that the article said delivery to commercial customers for 2010. The Vue PHEV appears to using the same advantage touted for the Prius over the Volt – an existing architecture – to beat it to market. Commercial customers in 2010 means probably another year until the Prius PHEV is available to the public. That is as far off as the Volt’s delivery. Considering neither will deliver a PHEV by the end of this decade, talk from both sides this early in development smacks of greenwashing – to be otherwise is an exception not the rule in the auto industry unfortunately (including Toyota).

  15. “The Vue PHEV appears to using the same advantage touted for the Prius over the Volt – an existing architecture – to beat it to market. Commercial customers in 2010 means probably another year until the Prius PHEV is available to the public.”

    Odd framing. The advantage of the Prius is that it is the most efficient four+ passenger car on the US market. Bar none.

    Some day there will be more options, and perhaps different winners … but as I’ve said before … it is a temporal contortion to say that the X beats the Prius today because it only might beat the Prius in some possible future.

  16. Given Toyota’s experience, my money is on them to deliver before GM has the Volt ready for the mass market.

    I can virtually guarantee Toyota will deliver a few hundred plug-in hybrid prototypes to a limited set of commercial customers before GM puts tens of thousands of Volts on dealer parking lots. This is not exactly a “stop the presses” revelation.

    And GM is promising it in less than two years.

    GM has not promised the Volt in “less than two years”. Their stated goal is to ship the Volt by yearend 2010, a little less than three years. But even that is not a promise — their CEO just publicly called the 2010 goal a “stretch”. Even if GM manages a few vanity shipments in late 2010, true mass production almost certainly won’t come until 2011.

    I am ecstatic Toyota is waking up and smelling the PHEV coffee, but it’s clear they’re still scrambling. The original plan to use lithium-cobalt-oxide blew up (or should I say “thermal evented”) in their face. They then backpedaled into a time-buying PR campaign of dissing plug-ins while offering some token Prius conversions for fleet studies. Recent statements indicate they’ve regrouped and are taking the baby steps toward a true PHEV commitment. They’re still behind, but I’m confident in time they’ll put together a great design and be a formidable competitor in the PHEV market. I’m equally confident they’d be doing none of this if GM weren’t investing so much effort into the Volt. So I cheer for both companies.

  17. Their stated goal is to ship the Volt by yearend 2010, a little less than three years. But even that is not a promise — their CEO just publicly called the 2010 goal a “stretch”.
    That goal is already changing with impressive regularity. By next year this time, the new-new shipping date (end 2012) will also be a stretch…

    Remember this quote? (How long ago March 2007 seems, eh?) “Competitors who write this off as a PR exercise are going to be brutally surprised.” That’s GM’s Bob Lutz giving reporters in Geneva an actual timetable for the Chevy Volt: running prototype by the end of 2007, with “an internal target of production in 2010.”

    Oh well, maybe move that production date back about five years, or so.

    They’re still behind, but I’m confident in time they’ll put together a great design and be a formidable competitor in the PHEV market.
    Behind what? GM PR spiel? LOL!

    The difference is this: if the Pruis PHEV gets an all electric range of 20 miles, Toyota can still call it an achievement. If the Chevy Volt gets 20 miles, it’s missed the target by half.

    I’m equally confident they’d be doing none of this if GM weren’t investing so much effort into the Volt.
    Perhaps. Perhaps not.

  18. Plug-in cars… I would think this discussion would be focused on the energy source? We understand the long-term benefits of developing the electric drive train.

    But as far as consumer perceptions of environmental friendliness today, this is a marketing gimmick.

    If you live in Vermont, it means you’re finally driving a nuclear-powered car.

    In California, simply a less-efficient natural gas car.

    And in West Virginia, an old-fashioned coal-powered car. May as well put a little red caboose behind you.

    Plug-ins are a short term strategy to reduce foreign oil dependence — and they will not make a dent for a decade or so.

    Meanwhile, we fail to address the underlying generation challenges of nuclear and solar. Could someone explain?

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