By on August 4, 2008

We\'re not the only ones keeping our eye on them.Turns out TTAC isn't alone with its Tesla Death Watch and Volt Birth Watch series: Toyota has its own going. EV World's (sub) Bill Moore got this and a few other juicy tidbits from a casual conversation with Toyota's "grumpy old man" Bill Reinert, National Manager of the Advanced Technology Group. Toyota has a Death Watch going on Fisker , Tesla, and…the Chevy Volt. Toyota doesn't think any of them will ever be built in large volumes, because their Li-Ion batteries are simply too expensive to be cost-effective. He also cited concerns over global supplies of lithium. Meanwhile, Toyota is hard at work on next-generation batteries , especially air battery chemistry, including zinc-air, as well as stepping up production of NiMH packs and starting Li-Ion factories. What's the line about not "having all your eggs in one basket"? Reinert also thinks it's unrealistic to expect owners of plug-in to only tap the mains at night. Utilities are going to have to step up capacity. And forget about all the 2010 Prius spy shots floating around the web, they're just cobbled-up mules based on the current Prius. Toyota is famous for keeping their final products under wraps (just one of the many differences with GM). And one more goodie from the grumpy Toyota brain trust: "liquid peak" (every conceivable liquid fuel from petroleum, coal and biofuel) arrives in 2018. That's when global demand will outstrip capacity to produce them all.

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27 Comments on “Volt Birth Watch 70 / Tesla Death Watch 14 / Karma Birth Watch 2: Toyota’s Death Watch...”


  • avatar
    Needforspeed007

    That is an interesting read, but why would Toyota not think Li-Ion could not be mass produced and made cheaply while working on a new battiery itself that could cost more, not to mention Toyota is working on Li-Ion to, and that makes the earlier statement a bit of a contradiction really.

    As for the plug-ins though, that you cannot be sure about yet, since none exist on the market currently and not sure how often owners will utilize them either.

  • avatar
    netrun

    So Toyota is planning for issues that GM hasn’t even considered? And Toyota has multiple solutions for each one already in the works?

    Man, I’d love to be a fly-on-the-wall during one of their strategy sessions.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Needforspeed007, Toyota sees Li-ion as a step towards higher capacity (air) batteries. But they’re covering all the bases, keeping NiMh in production for low-cost hybrids, and Li-ion for the plug-ins. The real point here is that the cost effectiveness of Li-ion plug-ins is going to be terrible, as my comparison of the Volt and Prius showed, unless gas more than doubles in a few years. Toyota feels that serious EV’s and plug-ins will require the new battery tech before they can really take off, unlike GM, Tesla and Fisker, who are banking all on Li-ion.

  • avatar
    KatiePuckrik

    I’m a little shocked here. I thought is was (unofficial) policy at Toyota to NEVER mention the competition under any context or circumstance and to only mention Toyota. Why would Toyota abandon that rule and comment on THREE other companies in a disparaging way?

    “Big company” syndrome, maybe…..?

  • avatar
    Hank

    This is the same “brilliant” Toyota that displayed the “forward thinking strategy” of introducing a new Titanic sized Sequoia this year, right? The same that is already thinking of cutting one production facility for the Tundra in its first year on the market, right?

    Yeah. Not all their strategy meetings are fly-on-the-wall worthy.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Katie, This info came out over an informal lunch. Hardly an official statement. but interesting insight.

  • avatar
    Axel

    Just a wild hunch, but I have a feeling we won’t know for certain when any fuel “peak” has occurred until 20 years after the fact.

    There an awful lot of oil shale out there to “peak” in just 10 years. Unless they think it will be a “demand peak” instead of a “supply peak.”

  • avatar
    monkeyboy

    Whoever thinks that GM hasn’t considered any solutions has to be naive. Doesn’t GM have a hydrogen vehicle being tested in the real world?

    And didn’t they also produce the first mass produced EV?

    I hate to think that you get to be No. 1 by doing nothing.

    Sounds like Jap media spin to me.

    So is this guy Toyota’s version of Bob Lutz?

    Who doesn’t like to stir the pot once in a while?

    The lithium supply thing is real. It’s only available in third world countries and finite. But is it recyclable?

  • avatar
    whatdoiknow1

    This is the same “brilliant” Toyota that displayed the “forward thinking strategy” of introducing a new Titanic sized Sequoia this year, right? The same that is already thinking of cutting one production facility for the Tundra in its first year on the market, right?

    Isn’t it just amazing that the same company that might have made one mistake (Is this REALLY a mistake?) is actually just “shaking it off”, Yet they are still managing to concentrate on other VIABLE projects that they have been working on (and improving) for some time now. Guess what, they are ALSO hard at work on the NEXT Corolla and Camry. I would not be surprised to find out that they are still doing a great deal of R&D on full-sized SUV and Pick-ups.
    Stop missing the forest though the trees here! Far too many folks are missing the point about Toyota “BIG” investment in the NA light-truck market. Out of GM, Ford, Dodge, one (or two) of these companies will be gone very soon leaving a big fat hole in the marketplace that Toyota is setting itself up to take advantage of.

  • avatar
    KatiePuckrik

    Paul Niedermeyer

    Which is my point. Toyota are slipping.

    First rules of public relations:

    1. Treat every question or situation as if it was loaded.

    2. Treat every microphone as if it’s on.

    3. Always stay on the record, even if you are off it.

    Doesn’t matter whether it’s an informal lunch or a high ranking dinner. Stay professional.

    Gerald Ratner thought he was “off the record” when he made his comments and look what happened…..

  • avatar
    whatdoiknow1

    How much energy and $$$ does it take to produce a barrel of usable petroleum from oil shale?

    The problem with oil shale is that while there is a great deal of potential energy stored in the oil shale the cost and effort to turn shale into usable oil is not very economical now.

    Sure Oil shale can provide us with just about all the petroleum we need but at what cost? If the price of gas at the pump is over $5 to $6 per gallon is it a viable, sustainable solution?

  • avatar
    bleach

    Hank,

    Actually, being a fly on the wall for the misses are more fun than the hits.

  • avatar

    I’m pretty sure demand is already rising faster than supply hence your $4-5 a gallon price point. Pretty sure it’s already double that in the UK. I saw a clip of Jay Leno riding around in a Tesla so maybe they’re um, not dead yet, just a little behind. I’m seeing Smart cars, Pria, and Yari all over the place. I do believe in plug-ins, I do believe in plug-ins. Also pretty sure that “Jap” ain’t exactly kosher.

  • avatar
    netrun

    @monkeyboy: You have to fail many, many times in order to get it “just right”. In order for those failures to mean something, you have to acknowledge them as failures, make improvements, and try again. Eventually you will have a winner and you have to maintain that belief or you will be the failure.

    By doing extensive advance planning for where they want to be in 20yrs, Japanese firms know what they have to do in the next 5yrs so that the 20yr plan will happen.

    On the flip side, GM doesn’t have any idea where it’s going to get the cash it needs to get through 2009. That’s why it’d be so interesting to see things done differently.

    And keep looking for the cracks in Toyota’s plans. Let them know where they are, in detail. They’ll thank you for the information and work to fix them. Why? Because that’s what they do.

    This is why GM looks so ridiculous, ADD, and clueless in comparison.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    KatiePuckrick,

    I’m reminded of something Mark Twain once said, “If you always tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”

  • avatar
    M1EK

    There an awful lot of oil shale out there to “peak” in just 10 years.

    The point to peak oil is not that a lot of it might be coming out of shale; it’s that new production can’t be brought online quickly enough to offset depleting existing production. Shale will be extremely limited in how quickly it can come online and how much can be produced – it’s incredibly expensive in terms of water and other resources.

    And, no, you shouldn’t talk about “demand outstripping supply”. They’re curves, not scalar values. More accurate to say the price is rising because the demand curve is pushing quicker than the supply curve can react (and if you believe peak oil, ever will react).

  • avatar
    rodster205

    Anyone notice this? Apparently Tesla isn’t the only problem Elon Musk is having these days…

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/03/science/space/03launchweb.html?ref=science

  • avatar
    G.D.

    This Tesla death watch is amusing in a foolishly juvenile way.

    The whole idea of Tesla is to apply aspects of tech- company flexibility to the automobile- the car as killer app. This means having the ability to integrate the latest and greatest forms of battery tech in much the same way that chip technology progresses. So the very idea that Tesla is on a death watch due to battery innovation is absurd on its face.

    Moreover, Reinert is completely wrong about off peak grid infrastructure capacity. The DOE already did a study on this topic (2006, I believe) and stated that we have the ability to charge 180 million vehicles off peak right now- with no changes to infrastructure.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    GD: So the very idea that Tesla is on a death watch due to battery innovation is absurd on its face.

    It’s not innovation that’s the problem; it’s application. Toyota thinks that Teslea is boxed into a corner with what they have promised (range, price) with the Whitestar Sedan. They don’t think it’s doable. The same (Toyota) thinking applies to the Fisker Karma and Volt. We’ll see.

    GD: Moreover, Reinert is completely wrong about off peak grid infrastructure capacity.

    Please reread the post; Reinart is specifically saying that he thinks folks won’t limit themselves to night-time charging, therefore creating greater demand during peak times.

  • avatar
    CarnotCycle

    Elon Musk is finding out that hardware is much “harder” than software to actually make a buck on. Musk’s Falcon 1 rocket detonated on stage-separation a couple nights ago over the Pacific. That’s three strikes so far.

    Good thing for Musk and SpaceX that US taxpayers are funding them now via the COTS contract. Musk might be rich, but blowing up rockets like that exceeds the capacities of even he in a very short time comparatively. Given the street-cred Tesla has with the Beautiful Green People and their propensity to prod the government into subsidizing bad investments, looks like Tesla will be on Uncle Scam life-support before too long as well I would guess.

  • avatar
    G.D.

    Niedermeyer:

    Then perhaps the post should clarify this focus on “application” and not the various types of battery tech, because the implication of Li-ion limitations is that Tesla cannot or will not choose another battery type if they find one more suitable to their application.

    As to his point about capacity, places like energy starved California are already adding significant daytime capacity. It really is a non issue over the next 5-8 years. If people use plug-ins for commutes (as is the vast majority of consumer car mileage), they will charge primarily at night.

  • avatar
    kovachian

    “monkeyboy :
    Whoever thinks that GM hasn’t considered any solutions has to be naive…..
    And didn’t they also produce the first mass produced EV?”

    No, they did not. Electric vehicles were mass produced more than 100 years ago; GM wasn’t even thought of back then.

    What’s that again about being naive? :)

    Anyways…..

    The Tesla isn’t on it’s death bed already is it? I was so looking forward to scoring one. I know that someone within the company got himself a prototype but I figured they’d have made some deliveries by now.

  • avatar
    Phil Ressler

    “liquid peak” (every conceivable liquid fuel from petroleum, coal and biofuel) arrives in 2018. That’s when global demand will outstrip capacity to produce them all.

    Rubbish. Balderdash. Offal. Shite.

    In 2018, we will still be on the early learning curve for efficient & effective coal liquification, and likely barely scratching into kerogen. Deep water oil fields will still be being found.

    There might be a temporally-restricted supply peak because of cessation of demand pressures that delays development of costlier liquid fuel sources and their refinement, but a true liquid peak implying no further expansion of liquid fuel supplies is possible relative to demand anytime after 2018 is not in the cards.

    Phil

  • avatar
    cleek

    “liquid peak” (every conceivable liquid fuel from petroleum, coal and biofuel) arrives in 2018.

    I think it is time for “Peak BullSh!t” watch. This statement holds the top spot on my leaderboard.

  • avatar
    monkeyboy

    Heard today that Glenn Beck is to drive an official GM Hydrogen vehicle for a week.

    Where’s Toyota?

  • avatar

    monkeyboy:

    They’re busy trying to ramp-up U.S. production of Priora.

  • avatar
    altoids

    monkeyboy:

    Toyota? Over here.

    http://www.autobloggreen.com/2008/06/06/toyota-fuel-cell-hybrid-now-has-over-500-mile-range/

    Toyota can be hard to see, given all the dust clouds they’re kicking up.

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