GENEVA –Motor Corp. is marshalling its forces to develop a feasible plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle.
Masatami Takimoto, executive vice president-powertrain development and quality, tells reporters at the Geneva auto show here thatis “accelerating development” to introduce a PHEV as soon as possible.
Plug-ins have an external charger that can be plugged into a home outlet overnight, providing enough power for short-range urban driving as an electric vehicle. During lengthier trips, a plug-in would operate as a typical HEV, making use of a gasoline engine and electric motors.
Although he calls such a vehicle a “near-term practical solution of electricity utilization in automobiles,” Takimoto reminds that significant barriers remain, chiefly the battery technology, which is not available yet to make such a vehicle feasible.
He says in order to give the current Prius an electric range of 37 miles (60 km), a battery with 12 times the car’s current nickel-metal hydride’s capacity is needed, adding not even superior lithium-ion batteries are sufficiently capable.
Another consideration is how electricity is generated in a country, so as not to cancel out the advantages of a clean-electric vehicle. In the U.S., the majority of electricity is provided via coal-burning powerplants, which are high emitters of carbon dioxide, Takimoto says.
“In France, where atomic-power generation is quite mainstream, power generation for the plug-in hybrid becomes most effective in that kind of country,” he says, noting this will be a consideration as to where Toyota introduces its first PHEV.
Takimoto also says Toyota is “studying” diesel-electric hybrids for light trucks, as well as a diesel engine for the auto maker’s new Tundra fullsize pickup truck.
He says Toyota and truck makerMotors Ltd. are in discussions on how their new relationship will progress. Toyota purchased a 5.9% stake in Isuzu for ¥44 billion ($375 million) last fall.
At the time the deal was announced, Toyota pointed to’s prowess in diesel engines, specifically for passenger cars. However, Takimoto says if Toyota were to develop a diesel for a light-truck application, it first would look to its truck-making partner Motors Ltd.