By on January 21, 2013

Takeshi Uchiyamada, not really meaning it

Toyota “appears set to choose Vice Chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada as its next chairman,” The Nikkei [sub] writes today. Uchiyamada used to be Toyota’s R&D Chief, and is celebrated as the “father of the Prius.”  He was made Vice Chairman last year. If confirmed, he would replace the 75 year old Fujio Cho.  A Chairman at Toyota has more of an oversight role. The executive power rests at President and CEO Akio Toyoda.

With Uchiyamada, another manager with a long and strong technical background will be at the levers of the company.  With Uchiyamada also comes an outspoken critic of too much exuberance about electrification of the automobile. Last year in Tokyo, Uchiyamada said:

 “The current capabilities of electric vehicles do not meet society’s needs, whether it may be the distance the cars can run, or the costs, or how it takes a long time to charge.”

With Uchiyamada as the Chairman, expect Toyota to increase its research into hybrids, in order to make them smaller, easier to package, and less expensive to sell. Hybrids still have a single digit market share in the U.S. and play a negligible role in Europe. In the U.S., their tipping point will be reached when  the price premium narrows. In Europe, hybrids would have to displace diesels.  After diesels reached a similar tipping point in Europe, they now have around 50% market share.

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24 Comments on “EV Skeptic To Become Chairman At Toyota...”

  • avatar

    Well, he’s stating the obvious with that comment.

    If you parse the statement, he could mean that FUTURE EVs will overcome these problems.

    Toyota has the goods on the hybrid technology, and it’s OK if they put their limited resources into just that. Since only Nissan and Tesla seem serious about producing pure EV products that are better than golf carts, it remains to be seen how successful the pure EV market can be. Toyota may simply see it as too much of a risk.

  • avatar

    Chrysler Group does own some kind of electric-car company–which literally DOES make golf-carts–but they are the one major manufacturer I can think of that is noticeably missing from the alternative-fuel party. Chrysler’s only forays into that market that I can think of were the half-hearted Aspen and Durango Hybrid twins, which I’m sure are worth very little of their initial value…

  • avatar
    Lynn E.

    I like my 2008 Prius that achieves 45 mpg on interstate trips but I am worried that Toyota has stalled. The new Prius V is a wonderful car with more rear passenger room and it carries about 1/3rd more than the Ford C-Max but it only gets 40 miles per gallon.
    I want the features of the Prius V but has the Toyota hybrid system come to the end of its engineering ability?
    I would be willing to pay $50,000 to $60,000 for a Prius V Hybrid that got a real 80 miles per gallon on trips. Is 80 miles per gallon possible for a hybrid?
    For the extra money I would like to have better seats also.

    • 0 avatar

      If you’re willing to pay $50-$60 grand, you’re going to want/demand a level of comfort, convenience, and yes, performance that mitigates against high fuel mileage. I want a comfortable, luxurious commuter car that can fly coast to coast and sail around the Hawaiian Islands, but I know I’ll wait forever. There are too many trade-offs involved.

      • 0 avatar

        For that price, Tesla will be happy yo deliver a car with that level of refinemenobe.

        But you have to wait in line with all of the other people rich enough for one, and the supercharger network is not yet national. Also, the Model X (my personal favorite, since I really want a plugin Sienna) won’t be available until 2014.

        But, still, there is a market for $60k-$80k green luxury cars, and someone has stepped up to serve it by selling real cars like the Model S.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      You may individually get excited about the idea of a 80 mpg car, just as other car buyers get excited about 400, 500, 600 hp cars. But both are equally useless. If you “do the math” and convert miles/gal. into gal./mil you can see that the dollar payoff in going from, say, 40 mpg to 80 is really quite small. Except in the Pacific Nortwest, where most electricity is generated by falling water, there is practically no “pollution” case for electric cars. Indeed, in parts of the country where burning coal is used to generate electricity, electric cars are probably worse than hybrids from a “pollution” standpoint. At best, electric cars displace the pollution from the point of us to wherever the generating plant is that supplies the electricity.

      • 0 avatar

        I compared my former xB1 to my current Leaf using this handy calculator:

        For the same number of monthly miles, the Leaf ‘produces’ about 17% less carbon than the xB1 (30 mpg), using the worst-case Eastern coal (which is where I live, anyway). If its electrons are produced by other means, then the comparison improves even more.

        So a car getting 36 mpg would be a wash by comparison (again, using the worst-case Eastern coal).

      • 0 avatar

        “You may individually get excited about the idea of a 80 mpg car, just as other car buyers get excited about 400, 500, 600 hp cars. But both are equally useless.”

        Bah! You must not live in an area riddled wiht antiquated uselessly short on-ramps and traffic flowing in the right lane at 70+ mph

        400-600hp cars aren’t useless at all.

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks to a smaller and lighter battery and powertrain, the 2015 Prius will get 20% better mileage (60 mpg) and have more cargo area than the Gen III.

    • 0 avatar

      Its pretty hard to beat a Prius Hatchback in terms of economy.. you would have to compromise the power, size and sound proofing.. Its even rumored that Toyota tweaks the wheel alignment to increase economy at the expense of tracking comfort on the hwy. Americans will not accept a car with 0-60 of 15 seconds.

      Wayne Gerdes compares the economy of two Priuses vs the C-Max at several steady hwy speeds, here is the chart:

    • 0 avatar

      The C-Max is arguably a more-desirable car than a Prius V…BUT…I would be a bit worried about Ford’s reliability and tendency to slant its fuel figures. Toyota’s Prius V may look like an aardvark in sheetmetal, but at least it has a proven ancestry…

    • 0 avatar

      You’ll spend $60,000 on a Toyota compact??? I’m thinking $40,000 buys a lot of fuel.

      • 0 avatar

        That assumes that dollars are an accurate measure of Value… And also the only kind of value that matters.

        Don’t get me wrong, dollars are useful and I find they’re worth working for. But let’s not confuse a fascinating and economically useful commodity with Value. People value different things differently, which is one of the reasons why trade makes sense in the philosophical sense. A guy who is willing to pay $80k for an 80mpg Prius V values burning less gasoline more than you, or even me, but if he wants to spend his money on that, more power to him!

        I did point out elsewhere, though, that Tesla becomes an option at that price-point, and they use 0 gallons of gasoline and appear to be very nice cars by other criteria as well, despite the luxurious looks and the exclusive badge on the hood (both of which I’d find mildly embarrassing, but could probably get over for the Tesla’s other features).

      • 0 avatar

        “That assumes that dollars are an accurate measure of Value…”

        No, I totally understand that. But why split hairs about mpg and msrp?
        just save the darn planet and move on…

  • avatar
    Lynn E.

    Lorenzo, you are making assumptions which are wrong. I am not looking for a easily broken German car or super performance. The interior of the Prius is fine (except the seats) and the performance is very adequate for my needs.
    What I want is a useful vehicle that gets leading edge mileage. I have two electric bikes, I study the battery business, I am very aware of the costs of lithium batteries, and I realize an 80 miles per gallon hybrid would probably require many more advanced batteries – hence the expected increase in cost.
    My question are: is an 80 miles per gallon long distance hybrid possible? If it is why isn’t Toyota building them? I, for one, would be willing to pay to be on the leading edge.

    • 0 avatar

      On the highway at constant speed, the battery in a hybrid isn’t doing anything for you. If anything, it’s hurting mileage because of the added weight. Your mileage is going to be governed by drag coefficient and fontal area.

      • 0 avatar

        “On the highway at constant speed, the battery in a hybrid isn’t doing anything for you.”

        That’s not true. The electric motor kicks in and assists on hills. Probably not a big help out on the prairies, but those of us that live in hilly and mountainous areas definitely see a difference in fuel economy with a hybrid.

  • avatar
    Lynn E.

    DC Bruce, please drop the tired idea that electric cars, plug ins, and hybrids just transfer pollution from one place to another.
    My home has solar hot water and will soon have solar electric panels which will provide more electric than I need, Tesla is installing solar charging stations across the US, and at least 4 other companies are also installing solar charges along our interstates.
    The move to electric cars, trucks, and buses will probably add electricity to our power grid.
    Buses and in city delivery trucks using the Volt type hybrid system will be charged at night making better use of our present grid which wastes energy at night because the huge power generators can’t be simply turned down or off during periods of low demand.
    How many times do we have to answer that tired and wrong (extra demand on our grid) nonsense before people get the message?

    • 0 avatar

      Lynn – you are under a serious misconception if you actually believe that our electrical grid “wastes energy at night”. The grid itself is simply a means for energy transfer and it has no ability to “waste” energy other than through normal transmission losses (primarily resistive – the aluminum conductors get hot).

      The balance of supply and demand on the electrical system must be maintained 24/7 otherwise the whole thing would collapse in a matter of minutes (search internet for 1965 NE blackout – just one example of many). Pumped storage, as eloquently described above, is the only current economical large-scale means of storing excess energy (and it’s use NE of San Francisco to capture the wind farm energy that is developed in the overnight hours).

      At night, as is the case at all other times of the day, system operators turn power generation on and off as needed.

  • avatar

    Lynn… please look up “pumped storage”… its the best battery ever made and has been used in over 130 sites around the world and has been used since the 1890s… andit’s been widely used since the 1960’s. Because of these big chemical-free “batteries”…No power is waisted from big power plants (nuclear in particular) that can not be turned down at night.
    Lynn, Ludington Pumped Storage in Michigan is a good example…and there are small mobile versions available as well. Now for a real treat… see MathWorks SAE Paper concerning hydraulic hybrids that store electricity.Just like an ultracap. Interesting stuff… and just what is needed to turn the tipping point for EVs and hybrid electrics. So close… yet so far away when the chemical battery makers refuse to admit their limits.
    A123 and the Boeing Dreamliner are only the latest examples of the limits of batteries. The Civic Hybrid Battery problems should maybe be added as well. Chemical batteries vs Pumped Storage? That’s what it will come down to. But it will be another decade for this question to be answered. Funny thing? It has already been answered by the worlds big electric utilities. A proper tipping technology already exists. MathWorks and others have made it clear…

    • 0 avatar

      Pumped storage still doesn’t solve the problem of the limited charging rate that batteries can endure. Solving this problem makes long trips in an EV possible, which is better than just adding more batteries.

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