Special Coverage

Greater L.A. Auto Show

LOS ANGELES – The second-generation RAV4 electric vehicle introduced here Wednesday at the L.A. Auto Show heralds a new era for Toyota Motor Corp., says a top U.S. executive.

Toyota’s comprehensive technology strategy is a portfolio approach that includes a long-term commitment to hydrogen fuel cells, plug-in hybrids and battery-electrics, all driven by the further proliferation of conventional gas-electric hybrids,” Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. CEO Jim Lentz says.

The auto maker plans to launch a plug-in hybrid Prius and another commuter EV in “key global markets” around the time of the RAV4 rollout in 2012.

By the end of 2012, Toyota also will add seven “all new” hybrids to its line, and by 2015 it will introduce its first commercialized hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle, Lentz says.

Planned for limited testing in 2011 before its full market entry in 2012, the RAV4 EV will have a target range of 100 miles (161 km) in real-road driving patterns, through a variety of climates and conditions.

It weighs 220 lbs. (100 kg) more than the current RAV4 V-6, but is expected to accelerate 0- 60 mph (97 km/h) just as quickly, in about 6.4 seconds.

“From the beginning, the customer experience has been the focus,” Lentz says.

To that end, Toyota has been working on developing low-carbon synthetic fuels and advanced batteries, beyond lithium; reducing vehicle weight and further improving passenger safety, he says.

But delivering unconventional products that are compelling and affordable and also offer an acceptable level of daily convenience to mainstream customers is difficult, Lentz says.

That’s why the auto maker is helping promote the development of public recharging and hydrogen refueling infrastructure, he says, revealing a new collaboration between Toyota, Shell Oil Co. and Air Products and Chemicals Inc.

The tie-up will result in the world’s first public pipeline-fed hydrogen refueling station in Torrance, CA, adjacent to Toyota’s U.S. headquarters.

“We know that new technology requires time to mature and refine,” Lentz says, “Equally important is the need to inform and educate consumers and prepare them for the arrival of a confusing array of unconventional products.”

“This will be a very expensive program for Toyota, but one of many necessary steps in moving the needle with a broader base of consumers toward sustainable mobility,” he adds. “I’m looking forward to see how the story unfolds as much as you.”