Saturday, July 21, 2007

Toyota Hot and Cold on Plug-in Hybrids

A month or so ago word was Toyota was postponing the new generation Lithium Prius. That seemed to be a hint that Toyota wasn't moving too quickly on plug-ins. As if to confirm that notion, recently a Toyota spokesman in DC was denigrating plug-in hybrids as Hymotion/A123 and Rob Lowe were making a plug-in splash in Congressman Ed Markey's global warming committee. According to Autos Insider of July 12, 2007
Toyota, which has sold 1 million hybrids worldwide, including 750,000 in the United States, over the last decade, said converting a hybrid risks vehicle fires, and actually increases greenhouse gas emissions.
Now, however, we continue to see more information on Toyota's own prototype plug-in Lithium Prius. Japan's leading newspaper Asahi Shinbun reports "the company will be the first Japanese carmaker to win approval from the ministry for plug-in hybrid tests." Asahi reports:
"Electric vehicles that run only on electricity are said to be more environmentally friendly than hybrid vehicles because they have no emissions and do not use gasoline.

However, the cars can run only short distances before they run out of juice.

Toyota says plug-in hybrids offer the best of both kinds of vehicles."
Although it is clear to me there is great value in "short distance" 75 to 150 mile range all-electric cars such as my RAV4 EV, there is no doubt the market for various plug-in hybrid options would be huge. I look forward to seeing advertisements for plug-in hybrids touting the "best of both worlds" meme. Essentially an acknowledgement that a plug-in hybrid is better all around than the gasoline-dependent hybrids that you can't plug in available today. After all, grid electricity is cleaner and cheaper than gasoline. As soon as Toyota puts to bed its disingenous "and you don't have to plug it in" campaign, we'll know they're serious.