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Toyota investigates LPG Aurion

Gas attack: Aurion could be the first Toyota recipient of liquid-injection LPG.

The chances of an Australian-made LPG-fuelled Aurion gain weight as Toyota eyes Ford

30 Sep 2008

THE ADVENT of liquid-injection LPG technology, as well as research showing an increased interest by car buyers in LPG vehicles, looks certain to lead to LPG versions of Toyota's Camry and Aurion on the Australian market within the next few years.

While Toyota Australia will not confirm that it will produce LPG cars locally, the company’s engineering and design group under Max Gillard has been given the task investigating the engineering of LPG liquid injection (LI) for the local market.

Mr Gillard, who is vice-president and CEO of the Toyota Technical Centre in Melbourne, will also report to management on how long it would take to get the technology ready for sale and what engineering resources will be needed to build the cars at the Altona manufacturing plant.

Apart from some local LCVs using LPG, Toyota Australia has long shown little interest in LPG cars and some Toyota senior executives in the past have openly scoffed at the thought of using the fuel in OE Toyotas in Australia.

But the abundance of the LPG in this country, the LI technology, a community shift towards LPG as a more environmentally-friendly and lower-priced fuel than petrol or diesel, and moves by both Holden and Ford to introduce single-fuel LPG liquid-injection cars in the next few years has led to a change of heart.

The executive director of sales and marketing of Toyota Australia, David Buttner, told a Toyota Environment and Technology Conference yesterday that Toyota Australia was conducting research into LI. But he declined to give details.

“We are not blind to some of the opportunities that things like liquid-injection offer,” he said. “There is recognition in the community of these alternate fuels and the benefits they can have to the environment and also to the hip pockets of the consumer.” Asked later by GoAuto if Toyota had been ignoring LPG because it sees a big swing to LPG large cars as a threat to the sales for the upcoming Camry Hybrid he said: “No, not at all. We cannot afford not to offer the market what the buyers ultimately demand.

“We believe there is going to be a stronger swing to the new liquid-injection. With the development now taking place at Holden and Ford (on LPG LI), it would be negligent of us in our planning if we were not giving appropriate attention (to LPG).

“If we were not looking at it then we would be potentially giving away significant volume. We cannot be arrogant and put our head in the sand.”

80 center imageToyota’s corporate manager of product planning (left), Peter Evans, told GoAuto that LPG was “not as high on the agenda of Toyota globally as it was high on the agenda of Toyota locally”.

“But we are taking care of that. We are working with Max Gillard and his team at the Toyota Technical Centre,” he said.

“We are well aware of the benefits of liquid-injection with dedicated mono-fuel configuration. We are not blind to it and it may well make business sense, economic sense and sense to the consumers.

“All of those things are well understood. So it is under consideration but I really cannot say much more than that.” Mr Evans said the timeframe for the introduction of LPG LI in a local Toyota would depend on the level of adoption on a wider scale.

“Both Holden and Ford seemed to be back-pedalling on diesel and both are focusing very heavily on LPG LI. We understand the (Ford) Duratec (V6) will come out with LPG liquid-injection in 2010,” he said.

“Ford is certainly being very aggressive with a 2010 introduction and they are predicting as much as 40 per cent of their sales being LPG LI.

“If you apply those numbers it puts up a pretty good economic argument (for Toyota) to move forward (to LPG LI) relatively quickly.

“That kind of program in terms of engine durability testing, valve seats, cams, emissions and so on is not a small program. So we will be driven by the market reality of what people are buying, how long it will take us and whether we have the engineering resources. All of those things have to be considered.” Mr Evans said the advent of liquid-injection LPG into Australia “changed the game hugely.” He said that he personally viewed the advantages of the current gaseous LPG technology over petrol cars as “marginal” and described LPG LI as “the answer to a matron’s prayer”.

“With liquid-injection you can get back all the power you lose from LPG dual fuel, you can get back almost all the fuel economy that you lose with gaseous LPG conversions. Environmentally it is a very clean fuel.

“We think mono-fuel has a real future. We think that Ford has it right with mono-fuel at the moment because you can maximize the engine (performance and economy) and the boot capacity by using the space for the fuel tank for your LPG.

“But to use it (LPG) properly it has to be a dedicated installation.” Mr Evans said converting an existing petrol car involved duplicated cost because the LPG equipment replaces systems already installed in the car.

“With a dedicated installation you have the advantage of substituting the petrol fuel-injection system with the LPG-injection system and the ability to use the petrol tank space under the rear floor pan to maintain boot space,” he said.

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