By John Addison (11/17/09)
Over 1,000,000 Hybrids in U.S.
Toyota Motor Corporation continues to dominate the global market for hybrid cars with its Toyota and Lexus brands. Last March, Toyota became the only car maker to have sold over one million hybrids in the United States. Hybrid sales are pushing 10 percent in Japan and even higher in some U.S. cities.
In our recent survey, Toyota captured four of the Top 10 Hybrids with Best MPG.
Toyota Prius continues to lead hybrid cars in fuel economy and lowest lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions. This perennial favorite midsize 4-door hatchback delivers 50 miles per gallon (mpg) and is lowest on the list with 3.7 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent for the EPA annual driving cycle. Yes, 3.7 tons of CO2e is a lot; but many cars, light trucks, and SUVs create three times that emission; to get lower emissions you would need a plug-in car. The hatchback design allows for more cargo, especially if you drop part or all of the 60/40 back bench seat.
Lexus HS 250h is a stylish compact 4-seat sedan that delivers 35 mpg and 5.3 tons of CO2e per year. The Lexus brand lets your friends know that are using less petroleum by choice; you can afford a bit of luxury.
Toyota Camry Hybrid delivers good mileage for a midsize with an automatic transmission. The EPA rating is 5.4 tons of CO2e for the EPA annual driving cycle and a combined 34 mpg.
Lexus RX 450h with more acceleration and room than the others, costs more, starting at over $42,000. For a powerful SUV, it still conserves with 30 mpg and 6.1 tons of CO2e. Haul 5 people and lots of stuff without sacrificing quality and styling in the RX450h. The all wheel drive version has slightly better mileage than the Ford Escape Hybrid 4WD.
Some Toyota offerings are more about performance or image, than about great mileage. The Toyota Highlander Hybrid also sells well with those who want a midsized SUV with either 2WD or 4WD. LS 600h L luxury hybrid sedan, is the world’s first vehicle to feature a full-hybrid V8 powertrain.
What is Next?
Jim Lentz, TMS president, said, “Toyota’s hybrid leadership will continue to expand in the U.S. and around the globe. With 10 new hybrid models between now and 2012 in various global markets, we plan to sell one million gas-electric hybrids per year, worldwide, sometime early in the next decade.”
Toyota has announced that it wants all of its cars to have a hybrid option by 2020. Ford wants the hybrid option for 90 percent of its cars much sooner. Competition will force Toyota to keep moving forward.
The Toyota Auris will be offered next year in Japan with better mileage than the Prius. It is expected to be a compact hybrid.
A Toyota Yaris with better mileage than the larger Prius has been long rumored for the U.S.
We continue to hear rumors of a larger Prius in the form of a crossover, wagon, or SUV. Behind this rumor may be a debate within Toyota to establish Prius as an independent brand, as Toyota Motor Corporation has done with Lexus and Scion.
In demonstrating what might be in our future, LF-Ch concept hybrid vehicle from Lexus offers dramatic style and premium features. If you have multiple drivers in your household, one could drive the LF-Ch for fuel economy while the other could be out playing Grand Prix with this sporty five-door. A drive mode-switch allows the driver to select between four modes: Normal, Eco, EV, plus a Sport mode that amplifies throttle response for the most enthusiastic drivers.
Toyota Plug-in Prius Sales will Jump in 2012
Toyota will start volume manufacturing of the Plug-in Prius in 2012 according to Reuters. 2012 manufacturing of 20,000 to 30,000 Toyota Prius PHEV are expected. Toyota has not yet finalized 2012 pricing. Full featured models may be priced from $40,000 to $50,000 and be competitive with the Chevy Volt in the U.S., Ford’s PHEV offerings, and the Mitsubishi EV in Japan. The added lithium batteries in the plug-in version of the Prius will make it priced much higher than the hybrid Prius.
Toyota is currently leasing 500 plug-in Priuses in Japan and the United States in fleet demonstrations. Smart grid charging will be an important part of U.S. demonstrations. The plug-in is a cautious step forward, with a freeway-speed electric range of only 12 miles before the engine is engaged.
Dr. Andy Frank, the father of plug-in hybrids, had lunch with me this week at GreenBeat 2009. He thinks that Toyota is smart to lower the cost of the Plug-in Prius by only using 5 kWh of lithium batteries, even though it limits the EV range. GM may have an added $10,000 per vehicle cost over Toyota by using 16kWh in the Chevy Volt, although that cost differential is moderated with a $7,500 tax credit for using 16kWh.
Toyota will place ten Prius plug-in hybrid electric vehicles with Xcel Energy’s SmartGridCity™ project in Boulder, Colorado. The vehicles will be the focus of an interdisciplinary research project coordinated by the University of Colorado at Boulder Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute (RASEI), a new joint venture between the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the University of Colorado at Boulder.
The vehicle’s first-generation lithium-ion battery will be built on a dedicated PEVE (Panasonic EV Energy Company, LTD) assembly line. PEVE is a joint-venture in which Toyota owns 60 percent equity. The first generation lithium-ion batteries were developed in-house by Toyota Research and Development, and a dedicated battery development team is already working on the next battery “beyond lithium.”
Panasonic is in the process of buying Sanyo, subject to anti-trust scrutiny, which will extend its market share leadership and add auto OEM customers such as Ford.
In 2012, Toyota will also start selling the less expensive 2-door FT-EV, a pure battery electric car. This little car will probably be similar to the IQ concept car that it has shown for a few years. In the U.S. in 2012 Toyota will face intense EV competition with Nissan, Ford, and dozens of innovative younger companies such as Tesla.
Because hybrids cost more, some take years to make up for the added cost in fuel savings. Some of the performance and luxury models are never bought to save money. Rising oil prices and an improving economy will bring more people to hybrid cars. Toyota is determined to lead. It is auto show season. Look for more announcements in the months ahead.