Toyota Plans to Launch Six New Hybrid Cars for 2012

Toyota plans to launch six new hybrid vehicles by the end of 2012, a company spokesman has said, as competition to build greener cars increases.

According to announcements made yesterday by Toyota Executive Vice President Takeshi Uchiyamada, the company plans to introduce six new hybrid vehicles by the end of 2012. Two of the new hybrids would be Toyota vehicles and two would be Lexus luxury models. Photo: Toyota

In order to make this world better, just as it used to be in the old days, more and more auto makers are trying their best to minimize carbon emissions of their vehicles. The latest development is the field of cars is the development of electric cars which have zero carbon emissions.

Many car manufacturers have already manufactured hybrid vehicles with production capacity. The front runner in this category is Toyota Prius. Around the world Prius is considered as a breakthrough towards green revolution.

And now Toyota Motor Co. plans to introduce two new electric vehicles in the United States and six hybrid cars worldwide by the end of 2012, a company spokesman said Monday. The vehicles will all be new models, not updated versions of current models like the Prius, Toyota spokesman John Hanson said.

In addition, the executive, Takeshi Uchiyamada, said Toyota would start selling a plug-in version of its popular Prius hybrid car in the spring of 2012 and a hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle in limited quantities by 2015.

Mr. Uchiyamada, an executive vice president who heads Toyota’s research and development activities and is considered to be the father of the original Prius, said he expected hybrids to remain widely used for many years because of the cost and limited range of purely electric vehicles.

“Based on the current battery tech, it is not feasible to have full electric vehicles to be the main way now,” he told reporters, through a translator, during a visit to Detroit.

“There will be a period of time where plug-in hybrid vehicles will be used heavily. As battery technology gets better, there will be a transition to pure electric vehicles.”

Toyota’s coming electric vehicles are a battery-powered version of the Toyota Rav4 sport utility vehicle developed jointly with Tesla, a small carmaker based in California, and a compact car designed for short trips in urban environments. The electric Rav4 will be unveiled at the Los Angeles auto show in November, Mr. Uchiyamada said.

The company did not provide details about the coming hybrids, though it provided a chart indicating that four of the new models would be under the Toyota brand and two under Lexus.

The fuel-cell vehicle will be sold only in certain regions, based on the availability of hydrogen refueling stations, Mr. Uchiyamada said.

Toyota is the world’s largest seller of hybrid cars, with 14 models globally, but several of its rivals are getting a head start on electric vehicles.

The Nissan Leaf, a battery-powered car with a 100-mile range, and the Chevrolet Volt, which has a 40-mile range on batteries and a gasoline engine to extend the car’s range, go on sale later this year.

An electric version of the Ford Focus compact car is scheduled to go on sale in 2012, and other carmakers have electric vehicles in the pipeline as well.

Mr. Uchiyamada predicted that plug-in hybrids would eventually become more popular than traditional gas-electric hybrids like the current Prius. The plug-in Prius will be able to travel a short distance — 13 miles in Toyota’s test fleet — on battery power before the gas engine is needed.

A Toyota spokesman, John Hanson, said the company was aiming to sell about 20,000 of the plug-in Priuses a year initially. He said early estimates indicated that it could cost about $3,000 to $5,000 more than the traditional Prius.

Mr. Uchiyamada also revealed that Toyota had discovered a software bug in the tools used to download data from its vehicles’ onboard data recorders, but he said it did not have an effect on the investigations into the cause of sudden acceleration.

The readers, which have been used by the company and by federal regulators looking into thousands of complaints, were fixed before testing vehicles reported to have experienced sudden acceleration, he said.

Some Toyota critics have dismissed the validity of the data from the onboard recorders, based in part on previous comments by Toyota questioning their reliability, but Mr. Uchiyamada said that criticism was misguided.

“The bug never affected the data that would indicate which pedal is being depressed,” he said. “The event data recorder was always accurate, only the reader was inaccurate with regard to speed.” [via NY Times, BBC and Hybrid Cars]

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