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GENEVA – Toyota 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 that Toyota is “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 maker Isuzu Motors 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 Isuzu’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 Hino Motors Ltd.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com