By on July 3, 2008

tef3.pngAt the recent Toyota Environmental Forum, ToMoCo’s Executive Vice President outlined the company’s five-point plan for a “sustainable mobility society.” Green Car Congress charts the ch-ch-changes. 1. Further development of gasoline- and diesel-fueled combustion engines; 2. Hybrids and plug-in hybrids; 3. Alternative fuels, including synthetics and biofuels; 4. Electric vehicles; and 5. Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Masatami Takimoto revealed that gasoline and diesel will remain the corporate mainstay. To that end, Toyota will reduce vehicle size and weight and introduce a new family of engines with start-stop, direct injection, forced induction, HCCI and variable compression. The automaker will hybridize all its vehicles lines by 2020, increasing NiMH batteries density. Li-ions are heading for city electrics and plug-in hybrids; the plug-in Li-on Prius hits the streets in 2010. And here’s the kicker: Toyota’s working to leap-frog Li-ion technology. Takimoto says a practical and cost-efficient EV demands a technological breakthrough. Maybe GM’s Volt isn’t so much a “Hail Mary” pass as an intentional out-of-bounds throw before it gets sacked by the “Sakichi” battery (named after Toyota’s founder).

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28 Comments on “Toyota Leapfrogging Volt...”


  • avatar

    I’ve always thought that there would not be a single “silver bullet” for our energy and transportation needs. Toyota is smart to not put all of its eggs into one basket, although having their immense financial resources surely makes that easier to do.

    Is Toyota throwing ten different technologies at the market much better than GM’s alleged attention deficit disorder, though?

    Also, Toyota may be working on these technologies, but at this point, not having seen any demonstrations of a cost-effective production car utilizing all or some of them, it’s still not an on-sale vehicle.

  • avatar
    Stingray

    Having the japanese government backing up their asses with development money, it’s easy for them to brag about the new technologies. Then destroy the competition abroad, that doesn’t have that kind of “support”.

    But, it’s unfair if the US government does so with GM, Ford or Chrysler, go figure.

    Seen that way, you americans deserve to have your asses kicked, and badly, by the japanese and others in not only the auto industry…

    Sadly, sometimes Mr. Chavez is right :rolleyes: Government has to be involved with the industry. I have never agreed with his policies, but sometimes… his BS makes sense.

    If this is an estrategic industry, the government should support your auto industry, as the japanese do. Yesterday’s autoextremist column is very interesting.

    I am not from the USA, but I would be VERY pissed after knowing the japanese government funded the Prius development.

    Sorry if I’m unopolite, but this is how I see it. And this is not against TTAC or Mr. Paul.

  • avatar
    Buick61

    How is Toyota “leapfrogging” the Volt? All they’re doing is the same “engineering by press release” that they once accused GM of doing.

    We’ve seen the Volt’s progress, we’ve seen nothing of this new battery.

  • avatar
    waterfrolic

    When Toyota introduced its 3rd gen Prius (a.k.a. 2nd gen Prius in the US) in 2003, the company pompously announced that by 2010 all of its vehicle lines would offer a hybrid model. Wihtin a year or two, some company muckety-muck said that 2012 would be the year by which all Toyota models would offer a hybrid variant. Now we are up to 2020. Sounds to me like a Soviet 5-year plan.

  • avatar

    Stingray, Toyota actually makes money they can actually do it themselves. If you read Iaccoca’s book he complained that GM had the resources to invest in 3 solutions to a problem (and they would) while Chrysler had to be sure to pick the right solution because they only had enough resources to pick one. Its funny if you don’t spend your money buying companies like EDS, Hughes, Saab, etc and instead spend it on product development what can be done.

  • avatar
    BuckD

    @Stringray:
    Having the japanese government backing up their asses with development money, it’s easy for them to brag about the new technologies.

    I’m not an expert, but I suspect the fact that Toyota makes and sells cars people want to buy has something to do with their full R & D coffers. I have no idea how much money Toyota receives from the Japanese government, but I’m sure it’s making good use of it. The depressing truth is that a mismanaged company like GM just pisses away money regardless of where it comes from.

  • avatar

    @Stingray
    You’ve got that wrong. The Japanese gov’t isn’t supporting Toyota’s development programs as that would then force Toyota to share its technologies with its competitors. Basic math.

    In spite of that, Dr. Toyoda offered to let the HSD technology be available to any carmaker who desired it. A pretty obvious play at creating a standard, but then the ICE is old by now, and we should probably just settle for some alternatives.

    The fact that Toyota has the resources to look into a range of technologies should be a good thing – particularly as they are also considering distances to be traveled and distances from charging stations, as well as the necessity factor of the load carried. (Ambulances have other requirements than do vehicles used to pick up a six-pack of beer; and interstate transport vehicles have another set of requirements altogether.)
    Toyota’s Sustainable Mobility program has been well underway for over ten years now – Bob Lutz discovered the need a few months ago. However, both GM and Ford have been lobbying gov’t for money to do what they should have done a long time ago.

  • avatar
    musah

    “Having the japanese government backing up their asses with development money, it’s easy for them to brag about the new technologies. Then destroy the competition abroad, that doesn’t have that kind of “support”.”

    Having passed through this issue a while back and actually found out that the USA govt also supported the big three back then, and all the public got was one or two prototypes, isn’t it a little late to Cry MAMA

  • avatar
    Stingray

    Sherman, you got a point in that one.

    But you can’t deny the fact that the japanese government gave them the money to develop the first hybrids.

    And may be doing so now… even when Toyota is swimming in money.

  • avatar
    kph

    This is the kind of interest McCain’s proposed “battery prize” should have attracted. But I don’t think $300,000 is enough of an incentive for anything.

    You can also argue that our government’s policies have actually discouraged development of fuel-efficient vehicles in the past. Foreign car companies have focused more of their efforts in markets with high fuel taxes, allowing them to better weather the change in consumer tastes in America now.

  • avatar
    altoids

    Personally, I would have reservations driving a car with “Sakichi” batteries. If it has 100x the energy density of current Li-ion batteries, than it has 10x the energy density of TNT.

  • avatar
    Bancho

    Stingray :

    Toyota has proven they can handle money responsibly. The domestics are nowhere in the same league in that regard. Who would you rather give money to, a company that will invest it responsibly in R&D that ends up actually pushing vehicle efficiency forward or a company that will blow the whole thing on booze and hookers?

    kph :

    That’s 300 *million* not 300 thousand. It may not be in the billions but 300 million is still a decent carrot.

  • avatar
    menno

    So, altoids, do you drive a gasoline fuelled vehicle? I read once (someone correct me if this is wrong) that every gallon of gasoline was equivalent in energy to a 1/2 stick of dynamite.

    Plus some people surely will be “mortified” to even think of being propelled by a fuel cell vehicle because of the Hindenberg, and isn’t hydrogen “explosive?”

    In reality, if we wish to be moved along faster than the Amish with horses and buggies, we need some sort of means of energy potential or storage for intense work in moving a vehicle containing our bodies. It’s the SAFETY of what that motive force is, that counts.

    Now I’ll go to the defense of Toyota and say that I’ve actually READ a synoposis of the original development team’s work on the first generation Prius. Despite the stability of the NiMH battery as opposed to the LiIon battery, on the first drive of a prototype by the President of Toyota, a 3rd passenger had to sit in the rear of the car with a laptop, furiously working to keep the battery pack from exploding. I bet he was sweating bullets….

    In any case, from 1997 through 2008, there have been a LOT of Prius cars (as well as other hybrids) built and clearly, they are safe and don’t explode (as we saw with some lap-tops with LiIon batteries). Clearly, too, it’s very very obvious that Toyota are taking the same softly softly get it right approach to the plug in Prius and LiIon batteries.

    Little wonder, given the problems they’ve had with the LiIon batteries, that they are looking forward.

    As for “sour grapes” attitudes by some commentators who cry “foul” that Toyota supposedly had financial support by the Government of Japan, I say – even if it’s true, what of it?

    It’s not like every other nation in the world wouldn’t have done the same, and in fact, the United States Government DID p!ss away God-only-knows-how-much on the “supercar” initiative with the Detroit 3 under President Clinton (the lefties hero extraordinaire), and got – vaporware and emptied checkbooks out of the deal.

    If I were a taxpayer in ANY given country, I’d rather see my tax monies at least being given to a company competent enough to bring dividends back to the nation rather than seeing it evaporate into nothing.

    But the statement both by Toyota and the Japanese government is that there was no money. Whether this is true or not, is kind of moot, given the fact that we KNOW the US government did exactly the same thing for the Detroit 3.

    As for choosing the specific “hail mary pass” fuel for the future, I suspect that there isn’t ONE fuel for the future, as we’ve had for the prior 80 years, with coal being king for some while before that (for motive force in trains).

    I very, very strongly suspect that only the healthier, currently profitable companies – such as Toyota, Honda and Hyundai-Kia – with resources to spend on multiple fronts – will actually survive the next 3 decades of turmoil in the auto industry. I’m not even certain that Nissan-Renault will survive, to be honest.

    I also think that if some of the larger regional players, such as Peugeot-Citroen – and worldwide players with only regional extreme strength – such as Suzuki and Mitsubishi – want to actually survive and flourish, they need to consolidate if they want ANY chance.

    In fact, Peugeot and Mitsubishi do work together now, and Suzuki would be a good complementary company to join in to a conglomerate company(being the #1 SELLING MAKE IN JAPAN doesn’t hurt, as well as #1 in India – Maruti-Suzuki).

  • avatar
    CarShark

    I’m truly tired of the pro-doms coming in here and reusing that “Japan, Inc.” crap. I’m starting to think Jim Press made it up just so GM fans could have something to bitterly cling to other than their guns or religion. (heh)

    That said, I would like either Paul or Robert to tell me the difference between Toyota covering their bases with several technologies and GM’s alleged ADD.

  • avatar
    BuckD

    @Menno …the United States Government DID p!ss away God-only-knows-how-much on the “supercar” initiative with the Detroit 3 under President Clinton (the lefties hero extraordinaire), and got – vaporware and emptied checkbooks out of the deal.

    A fiasco eclipsed only by righty “hero extraordinaire” Dick Cheney’s “energy task force.”

    You had to go there….

  • avatar
    Phil Ressler

    Is there something new here? No. Volt is an electric car with a serial hybrid power scheme — a battery for power storage, and an on board electric power generator. All the motive force comes from electricity powering motors. As a vehicle architecture, it’s not wedded to any specific battery chemistry nor even any specific range-extending power choice. In fact, the range-extending ICE generator can be deleted to yield a battery-only EV. So Volt will be able to leverage *any* breakthrough in battery chemistry. Lead-acid, NiMH, Li-Ion — they are but steppingstones on a path of evolving battery chemistry. Nothing about Toyota’s scheme leapfrogs any other company’s advanced vehicle development plans.

    The most significant aspect of Toyota’s plan is its mix. The company takes the practical view that liquid fuels will continue to prevail, hybrid architecture is a bridge or coping strategy rather than a solution, and it will take some time for EVs to find their place. All five of their development points are represented with varying priorities in every other major car company’s utterances about future product planning.

    Phil

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Car Shark: I’m truly tired of the pro-doms coming in here and reusing that “Japan, Inc.” crap. I’m starting to think Jim Press made it up just so GM fans could have something to bitterly cling to other than their guns or religion. (heh)

    That said, I would like either Paul or Robert to tell me the difference between Toyota covering their bases with several technologies and GM’s alleged ADD.

    I totally agree with you about Press’ motives. Regarding GM’s ADD, Toyota does two things very different: It may talk about what its R&D is up to in general terms, as in this presentation, but it doesn’t show non-functioning concepts like the Volt way before the technology even exists. And when its new technology goes into production, it’s more focused, economically viable and successful. A classic case is GM’s hybrid strategy: the cheap underachieving BAS belt-assist and the technically ambitious but overly-expensive two-mode hybrid.

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    CarShark :

    …I would like either Paul or Robert to tell me the difference between Toyota covering their bases with several technologies and GM’s alleged ADD.

    I’ll tell you the difference. Toyota isn’t losing their underwear every time they sell a product.

    There’s credibility in them thar financials.

  • avatar
    netrun

    I agree that the domestic automakers were given a giant chunk of money in the Clinton era to fund 80mpg vehicles and all we got was .. more pickups.

    If the domestics had any credibility left it would make sense to support technological development. Unfortunately, all they will do with the handout is pay interest on debt they have no hope of ever paying off.

  • avatar

    If Toyota lights a fire under GM’s collective ass with their plans, hey, I’m all for it.

  • avatar
    altoids

    menno:

    Calm down…if you read my other comments, I’m a big supporter of the Prius.

    Gasoline is fairly chemically stable. You can set it on fire, but it won’t explode (except in vapor form), because it needs oxygen. Batteries don’t need oxygen. They don’t need an external oxidizer, they bring their own, just like rocket fuel and explosives. This is basic chemistry.

    Take a fully charged Li-ion battery, and hammer a nail through it. I guarantee it will burn/explode.

  • avatar

    Paul Niedermeyer:
    “Variable compression”: that sounds very interesting.
    Could it refer to an efficient flex-fuel engine that can burn E-85 with higher compression ratio and improved mileage?
    That would be great progress for biofuels.
    What do you think?

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    EJ-San_Fran, Saab worked on this principle some years back; here is a good write-up:
    http://www.saabnet.com/tsn/press/000318.html
    Compression would be continously variable based on engine load, supercharging boost, etc. Yes, it would seem that adapting to bio-fuels would certainly be a benefit. Saab ran into serious technical difficulties, and has (to my knowledge) dropped the idea. Toyota certainly has more money to throw at the problem than Saab does.

  • avatar
    folkdancer

    I am getting tired of this idea that the Japanese government supported Toyota’s research to make the Prius.

    First: I have never read any proof of this.
    Second: All developed countries support basic research at their universities and technical colleges. This research sometimes results in spin off companies that refine an idea and then the spin off is often sold to a big company that can use the idea. Any company in the world is welcome to buy or license one of these new ideas.

  • avatar
    kph

    Bancho,

    Wow, I misread 3 orders of magnitude.

    Yes, that should be a decent incentive, though who knows what the development costs will be. Chrysler spent that about that much alone to develop “stow n go” (yes, I went back and checked it this time) and look at what it got them.

    A quick google for Toyota’s research budget gives about $7 billion for 2005, while GM spent $6.6 billion in 2006. That’s pretty comparable, though finding figures for previous years (1990’s, when the Prius was in development) would take more time than I have now…

  • avatar
    LenS

    Chavez? His cronies have been wrecking Venezuela’s oil industry. Which is what always happens when you let government try to work with business — a bunch of politically connected hacks get rich while things get worse.

    Better to lower taxes and just get out of the way so real innovation can happen (and the incompetents like GM can stop wasting valuable resources).

  • avatar
    Geotpf

    I keep seeing the statement “the Japanese government gave Toyota money to develop the Prius”. However, the only source for this is Jim Press, who now works for Chrysler and is therefore probably full of shit. Does anybody have a link from any other source proving this? If not, STFU about it please.

  • avatar
    davey49

    I’ll believe that all these new type batteries can run a car when I see them in something smaller. At least I have seen NiMH and LiIon batteries running power tools. I consider all the DeWalt, Milwaukee, Makita, etc tools at HD, Lowes, etc as the test bed for these car systems.
    Zinc-Air is what hearing aid batteries are made out of.

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