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Toyota turns over hybrids

Hy-Estima: Toyota plans to dominate the world of hybrids.

Toyota writes its own set of rules for hybrid technology

Toyota logo28 Oct 2005

TOYOTA Motor Corporation has been told the world’s fossil fuel reserves could be exhausted in as little as a quarter of a century.

In response, the Japanese car giant is ploughing much of the $10 billion profit it reaped last year into alternative fuel technology to keep the internalcombustion (IC) engine alive before hybrid and eventually fuel cell vehicles take over.

"We don’t have a stop date for the internal combustion engine," said TMC president Katsuaki Watanabe in Tokyo last week.

"Fuel makers don’t specify any duration. We’ve asked them to supply a firm date – some say 2030, some say 2050.

"(But) I can’t foresee the death of the IC for the foreseeable future because IC engine technology will continue improving.

"Of course, the mainstay for quite some time will continue to be gasoline, but we must be ready technologically to accommodate all sorts of fuel sources. Gasoline engines can use all sorts of fuels – but I am not a prophet," he said.

In the meantime, Toyota’s leadership in petrol-electric powertrain technology continues apace. Hybrids are expected to comprise one million of the nine million vehicles it will build annually from 2010, with every model line to include a hybrid variant.

That’s far more ambitious than the 250,000 annual hybrid production target Ford announced in September, while General Motors vice-president Larry Burns said in Tokyo the company aimed "to have a commercially viable fuel cell vehicle by 2010 that’s competitive with fuel engines in durability and performance".

GM again presented its Sequel hydrogen fuel cell concept in Tokyo, which it describes as "a significant step in reinventing the automobile", "a real vehicle that’s not yet do-able" and "another major step towards GM’s goal of sustainable mobility".

The world’s largest car-maker, which produced electric vehicles unsuccessfully in the mid-1990s and admits to being left behind on hybrid technology, recently signed an agreement with DaimlerChrysler and its arch-rival BMW to produce hybrid technology in 2007.

The same year will see Toyota launch its third-generation Prius, which top executives claim will be as revolutionary as the 1997 original that appeared in concept form a decade ago at the 1995 Tokyo show.

"The first Prius was our first chance to produce a completely dedicated hybrid car from the ground up," Toyota Australia executive chairman John Conomos told GoAuto in Tokyo.

"It was popular but largely experimental and attracted mostly government business. The second Prius proved it could go down a conventional production line.

 center image"As a result, hybrid technology will become optional rather than exclusive as in Prius. The plan is to reinforce our leadership with hybrid technology.

"The DC/BMW/GM alliance on hybrid technology is a recognition of Toyota’s hybrid leadership – but theirs won’t be as efficient as ours," he said.

"We are searching for the ultimate eco-car that emits no pollution and will not have accidents. Hybrid Synergy Drive is the name under which we’ll achieve it.

"It could be petrol-electric, diesel-electric or fuel cell. (But) gasoline engines can be significantly improved – they’re only about 35 per cent efficient at the moment."Mr Conomos said fuel cell vehicles will be "more viable" in 10 years and that Prius could evolve into a fuel cell vehicle by as early as 2015, depending on infrastructure.

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