Toyota Not Too Keen On Plug-In Hybrids

Chevy Volt
The Chevy Volt will be a plug-in hybrid.
( -- Toyota is recognized as one of the leaders in hybrid technology, so it may come as a surprise to some that the company is not terribly keen on selling hybrid plug-ins to consumers. Even though the company is planning to build 500 plug-in Prius cars for test fleets, there are no immediate plans to develop plug-in hybrid technology for consumers.

At first, it may seem counter-intuitive for Toyota to shun plug-in hybrids. After all, GM plans to release the Chevy Volt -- its plug-in hybrid -- next year. But it makes a little more sense after you read Toyota's reasoning, reported by

Toyota estimates sales of hybrids that can be recharged at household outlets may be 50,000 units a year at most and could be as few as 3,500, Bill Reinert, U.S. national manager for advanced technology, told a National Academy of Sciences panel today in Washington. Sales of Toyota's , the best-selling gasoline-electric vehicle, were almost 159,000 last year.

A market for the plug-in electric hybrid vehicles "will emerge, but their success depends on advantages over existing hybrids," Reinert said in prepared remarks. "There is a great deal of variation on how current PHEVs perform in real-world conditions."

Clearly, Toyota think it already has a good think going with its current Prius -- no plug needed. Plug-ins are considered somewhat inconvenient right now by many . They have to be charged regularly, and there needs to be the proper infrastructure to support plug-ins so that commuters can charge up their cars while at work.

Of course, the fact that 75% of Americans live within 20 miles of their work means that the 40-mile range of the Volt may be sufficient. Besides, the Volt also has an electric-gasoline engine that can switch to when the battery runs down. So at least there isn't the fear of being stuck. Current electric-gasoline hybrids don't have the plug-in factor. They are desirable because they don't require consumers to make any significant changes in their behavior. Although, technically, the Volt wouldn't require a change, either. But its battery is more expensive (adding to the cost of the car).

Honda is also reluctant to introduce plug-in hybrids. The company says it's studying the matter to determine whether it is worth the investment in plug-ins. The reluctance of the Japanese automakers to get involved may pave the way for American carmakers to lead the way for plug-ins. But with Honda and Toyota offering a product consumers are already comfortable with (and may prefer), does it even matter?

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May 22, 2009
Uhh... jonnyboy... those plugins are hybrids too. They are just like a regular gasoline hybrid except they have bigger batteries, and can run for 40 kilometers before they need to start up their gasoline engine. They're not pure electric vehicles (which will need more advanced battery technology to work well).

So you're not going to have to call a towtruck.

May 22, 2009
So tell me then.... What happens when you run out of gasoline and you are not within 20 feet of Gas station???

Electrics will rule the earth wether you like it or not, it is only a matter of time.

May 22, 2009
This article is mostly distiguished by how little its author seems to know. Anyone who has followed the EV developments knows that Reinert is Toyota's
whore assigned to make disparaging remarks about GM's Volt project, which overshadows their rather obsolete and primitive Prius. Ther's simply no comparison amongst those who know about such things as gas avoidance for the respective cars. The Prius can sometimes obtain 45 MPG. The Volt as a commuter car for the entire US fleet, can avoid
well over 90% of currrent gasoline consumptionand obtain 250 plus miles per gallon of gas consumed.
Toyota has changed their tune at least 4 times over
the past year and a half. First they promised to produced a plug-in a year BEFORE the Volt. Then they changed and developed an inept Prius-based plug-in with a scanty 10 mile (partial electric) range, which was laughed off the market. (They actually were planning on using NiMH batteris).
Then they said that plug-ins (and Volts) were crap. Now they claim that plug-ins won't sell
and have made multi year estimates of sales volumes. Now, exactly how does one estimate the future of plug-ins without taking into account the future price of batteries? Toyota's Reinert is once again doing what apparently is his only corporate duty - criticizing the Volt. And for some reason, the media keeps getting taken in. Reinert knows his media - they are at least as ignorant as his positions are. I advise any media outlet to Google reinert's past statements and find some logic therin. I also note that the Volt with susbsidy will equal the cost of the obsolete Prius when fully optioned. I also note that Reinert's estimates must make one cringe when we know that over 50,000 have signed up for the Volt waiting list. Why is the media allowing these nonsensical blatherings from as infamous a blatherer as Reinert go unchallenged? Does the media ever know anything about the stories they cover?

May 22, 2009
Get back to me when a plug-in hybrid can travel 150 miles before the engine kicks in. In the meantime, it's more a yuppie lifestyle statement than a practical means of transportation.

May 22, 2009
This is such horse shit. You do realize once the plugin come in to play along the price of other cars in it's class then most people will not use oil anymore.
Whats crazy is that if I spend 6-10k I can buy a kit for my prius that will create a plugin that gets way over 100m/per gallon but the big auto companies cannot give us this car. Cmon, I call bullshit.

May 22, 2009
as usual len ignores the point, what happens when you run out of charge and you are not within 20 feet of an outlet?

go ahead, spend that 150$ for a tow by a gasoline powered tow truck, real smart, efficient too!!!!!

And, by the way, what are you going to do with all those batteries every 7-10 years?

jon boy either educate yourself or quit your whining. This is not the first time you posted this garbage

May 22, 2009
Folks, I run out electricity. I get out of my car, hold up a sign reading "$10.00 for a quick charge". Or maybe somebody stops for the simple good of it.

Maybe a clever company sends charge trucks down major freeways every 15 minutes.

Or maybe my little trip planner warns me that I can't get to my destination without charging.

I don't know whether Toyota is doing it on purpose -- of course, we have to assume they're going to act in their own interest -- they wouldn't stay in business otherwise. But maybe the problem is that nobody is making it worth their while.

Or maybe they aren't considering the minor social changes that would make it work.

May 23, 2009
I drive 22 miles each way to work. I have electricity for charging available at work. I also occasionally drive 300 miles one way to see my daughter at college. I think a lot of people are in similar situations. We need a car that can run on batteries most of the time and switch to gasoline for the occasional long trip. Seems like a no-brainer to me.

May 23, 2009
PHEVs are the obvious next step, and most likely the most significant and lasting one. Like plugging them in is a barrier of inconvenience, what a laugh! Ignore toyo, and unfortunately Honda. They either have a vested agenda or are simply playing the conservative 'wait and see', or both. And we cant rule out some Big Oil shadow influence. It's a shame toyo stoops to spreading misinformation. And the few loons posting here, well, you know, wouldn't be the internet without them.

May 23, 2009
I love how everyone is so certain how the future will play out.

The success of plugins depends on great many variables making any definite predictions futile. They can become both a success or a disaster and it will depend on factors such as electric grid and infrastructure improvements, public perception, gasoline costs, reliability, global economic situation, international marketability, and so on.

May 23, 2009
I think plug-in series hybrid vehicles like the Volt are the best option,especially for people with a commute to work that is roughly equal to the distance that batteries can run the car.If you are a real tree-hugger,you will faithfully plug in your car at home and work.If you are a bit lazy,you will sometimes skip plugging in when parked,and pay more for gas.Lazy people will also ease the strain on the electric grid.

May 23, 2009
It is big market for plug-in cars. What if I drive 3 miles each way to work, and 6 miles to see my relatives? 50 miles per charge is more than enough for me.
Problem is - those cars will be simple, it means cheap. Thats why car makers afraid.

May 23, 2009
Droid. If you only drove that far you might as well use a bike.

May 23, 2009
Valentiinro - I use bike every day , exept is rainy or winter :) Bycicle have it's own limitation.
All I want as a customer - cheap electric car for trips within city. Thats all. Cheap and simple. Nobody wants to produce those cars. They want things to be complicated. Cars,banks,taxes,law... Its a system.

May 23, 2009
There is potential, and someone tell me if what I am about to say is already under development (it would undermine some of my current links are always helpful too)...

I am curious why they aren't putting anything to self charge the vehicle into it. Such as using windmill style power generation on the wheels, maybe mini turbines along the front of the car, im not really a fan of the solar panels lining the roof, hood, or trunk (or all of the above), but it helps too.

Turbines which exploit the movement of air past the car resulting from car's motion (as opposed to wind), do not make sense since they tap the same energy source you use to propel the car, by adding a wind turbine you are increasing air drag, this drag in turn increases energy consumption of the car and the energy gained from the turbine will always be less then the energy lost due to additional drag due to inefficiencies on the way.

Solar panels make sense as they tap the Sun for energy.

May 23, 2009
From my perpective I have this to deal with.

I commute to work. At my office there is no place to plug in my car. I live at an apartment that has no outlet on the outside of the buidling. No place to plug in my car.

For me Pruis Pewns Volt All day....even if the Volt were 5 bucks. and my beat up 2001 Focus blasts both of them.

cause its paid off. ;)

May 24, 2009
Engineering design is always a series of compromises.

I think people using present hybrids as plug-in will be disappointed with the shorter life of the batteries unless their size (Amp-Hours) are significantly increased (which adds more weight too.) The engine certainly prolongs their life by supplying quite a bit of that electricity and not letting the batteries discharge so deeply. You only get so many Amp-Hours in and out of the batteries (charge cycles) before they wear out. I'm not sure why these articles don't mention this. Battery technology is getting better but not extremely fast.


May 24, 2009
the gm volt will suck. you can count on that. it was due out a while back. gm sucks. its volt will suck. plain and simple. toyota and honda are doing the smart thing and refusing to invest money in electric cars while gas is still cheap in the u.s. BLAME OBAMA FOR NOT RAISING GAS TAXES. CAFE regulations are nonsense. raise gas taxes and toyota and honda will change course without government telling them to.

The idea of a floating tax on gasoline which drops when prices rise,and rises when prices drop has been kicking around for some time.I think stabilizing gas prices this way would encourage innovation in alternate energy sources.As it stands now,large swings in the price of fuel make it hard to bring new energy saving technologies to market.

May 24, 2009
Get back to me when a plug-in hybrid can travel 150 miles before the engine kicks in. In the meantime, it's more a yuppie lifestyle statement than a practical means of transportation.

Your quote is pretty ignorant when you don't have the facts.

FACT:75-80% of U.S. citizens drive less then 40 miles a day.

Does this still sound like a yuppie lifestyle statement?
You do know that the internet can used for reasons outside of watching porn?

May 24, 2009
You do know that the internet can used for reasons outside of watching porn?

It can also be used for more constructive things than incessant ad hom attacks too...

May 24, 2009
My sister owns a Lexus 450H (hybrid SUV). It has become a plug-in but, for a different application:

FYI it appears, if you do not run the car for a consecutive extended amount of time (ours is 3 days) the service battery (not the main driving battery) will discharge itself completely. Yes, it will need to be replaced. A re-charge will not do it. If my sister goes on an extended trip and parks her car at the airport parking for over three days when she gets back all electronics in her car will not function. No automatic door opener, car will not start, windows are non operating, all settings have been deleted, security will not function, etc.. Only a charged replaced battery will get one back on track.

What I am getting at is the car needs to have a trickle charger installed (live electric plug required, nearby). The driver is required to plug-in the charger for any extended non operating period. This is a (forced) new behavior change needed by the owner of the vehicle. I did install a $35.00 trickle charger in her car with the necessary extension cord and instruction for her to use.

After an extensive research on this condition we found out the following: It is a common thing on the hybrid Lexus SUV. Lexus does not acknowledge this as a problem. Lexus will replace the service battery free of charge during the warranty period (doesn't help much on raining, Sunday, nights). Lexus will charge $200 to install a trickle charger (extension card not included). Don't forget to unplug the cord before you take off! This problem seem to be a result from the power drainage on all the electronic security system in the car. The service battery is completely separate from the main driving battery neither batteries are routed to each other (one would think this as a simple solution???).

You make your own conclusion about plug-in. We already have adjusted to this behavior. I am ready for the driving plug-in.

May 25, 2009
How is it tapping the same energy srouce being used to propel the car though?

There are two sources to be considered in the case of wind turbine on a car: natural wind and the movement of air resulting from the fact that the car is in motion. It's easier to consider them separately.

The first one, natural wind, can be used to get extra energy but it will on average create only as much as a similar turbine on a stationary vehicle which is not much.

The second part - the movement of the air resulting from the fact that the car is in motion is not a sound source of energy for reasons I was talking about. I'll try to clarify it somewhat. This movement of air is only there because the car is moving, and it is moving because it's engine consumes fuel/battery power. A wind turbine which aims to harvest energy from this motion is in effect harvesting energy from the engine.

The engine creates air movement, the turbine converts some of this movement back to energy but it also adds air drag. This added air drag increases the load on the engine. In other words with the turbine mounted the engine will consume more energy to sustain the same speed then it would without the turbine. The amount of energy lost due to this increased fuel consumption will always be higher then the amount produced by the wind turbine. Even if the turbine, the engine and the whole system were 100% efficient the amount of energy generated by the turbine would just equal the amount lost due to higher load on the engine and increased fuel consumption. It follows from the conservation of energy law.

It's somewhat analogous to having an electrical air blower blow on a wind turbine, the wind turbine will generate energy but it will always be less then the amount used to power the wind blower.

May 30, 2009
re: service batteries in some hybrids going dead after 3 days

Milou - it is very strange that the service battery be drained after 3 days of non-use. A standard gasoline car uses small amounts of current from the battery for security etc and can last for weeks or months without being charged (if in good condition) and can still source the short term tens to hundreds of amps to turn over the engine to start.

What would draw so much additional current in a hybrid when "off" that is not used in a gasoline car?

Or do they use an under rated service battery (and the problem could be solved by using a more heftier battery - or manually disconnecting the service battery)

May 31, 2009
Response to physpuppy: Good question. It is the same thing those Lexus 450H owners would also like to know. No one seem to know why this heavy drain on the service battery from this particular car? It would seem all newly built automobiles with elaborate electronic security systems would have the same problem. Yet, it is a common problem with the Lexus 450H. I can attest to this with ours.

In each past battery changes we had the standard Lexus service battery issued installed. I presently do not have access to our car to confirm what is currently installed. But, this Lexus standard service battery does seem smaller (in dimension) than a normal car battery. The service battery compartment space is limited. It is very possible Lexus issues an underrated battery? I have not researched this fact. Disconnecting the service battery to see if it holds a charge with no load would be a good test. I have not tried this. Regarding a woman (at least for my sister) it is easier to have her plug/unplug an electrical plug (where applicable) than have her disconnect a battery (ZZZzzzaaaaaap)!

I would think paying $50,000 for a vehicle, the vehicle builder would look into this and clarify the problem???

Jun 01, 2009
Interesting post, Miranda. But you aren't quite correct to say that the Volt, a series hybrid, switches to gasoline when its battery pack is depleted. Its gasoline engine doesn't propel the car. It runs a generator to recharge the battery. That's why GM insisted that the Volt wasn't a hybrid initially because only the electric motor runs the car.

Jun 04, 2009

The author isn't very bright as if a plug in hybrid isn't plugged in it is just recharged from the motor, Duh!!

Nor are the batteries expensive as there is a $8k tax credit that easily pays for them. Li is now under the price of sealed lead batteries and dropping farther so that's a red herring too.

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