By on December 6, 2016

2017 Toyota Prius Prime

Toyota has announced it will expand the development of hybrid technology over the next five years to get ahead of strict global emissions standards.

The  automaker plans to increase staff on its hybrid technology development team 30 percent by 2021, setting the goal of 19 emissions-friendly drivetrain components. The fuel-sipping technology could soon find its way into the majority of Toyota vehicles.

Reuters reports that the automaker took the time today to publicly affirm its commitment to green tech as emission regulations become progressively more stringent worldwide. “We need to take an aggressive approach to deal with changing regulations,” Toshiyuki Mizushima, president of Toyota’s powertrain division, said in a press conference.

The central theme of Toyota’s plan is to to put some extra muscle behind the development of a long-range pure EV, focusing less on the pipe dream hydrogen fuel-cell as the dominant power source of tomorrow’s emission vehicles. It also doesn’t hurt the company’s ability to fulfill its promise of selling of fifteen-million hybrids by 2020.

Mizushima believes that the commonality of hybrid vehicles will increase, eventually accounting for 20 percent of Toyota’s global sales by 2025. The automaker’s take rate is currently at 10 percent.

However, the Prius isn’t the groundbreaking vehicle it once was, and its sales have been cooling off for years. This new focus on advancing cooperative-propulsion could be the kick in the seat that Toyota needs place itself back on top of the electrified vehicle podium. Last month, the company assigned Akio Toyoda to head its new electric car unit.

Toyota claims that over 60 percent of its vehicles sold in the United States, Japan, China, and Europe should feature the new low-emission drivetrain components by 2021. That should reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 15 percent compared to the 2015 vehicle average.

[Image: Toyota]

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24 Comments on “Toyota Speeds up Hybrid Tech Development as Emission Regulations Loom...”


  • avatar
    FormerFF

    I’ve been driving a hybrid for the last three years, and for most applications, I do think it is the best answer. Maybe not so much for sporty cars and not for vehicles that are used to tow, but for the average person it works very, very well.

    Remember, hybrid and Prius are not the same thing.

    • 0 avatar
      yamahog

      Hybrids could be fantastic for towing. Imagine using an electric motor to get a load moving as opposed to slipping the crap out of the torque converter or clutch.

      Hybrids could be fantastic for off-roading, imagine being able to move the tires at 1 rpm with rheostatic torque.

      Hybrids could be fantastic for sports cars – using electric motors to vector torque makes a lot more sense than using trick diffs and awd systems.

      • 0 avatar
        FormerFF

        That’s true, many of the current crop of supercars have an electrified drivetrain.

      • 0 avatar
        993cc

        I’m not sure, and would like to be corrected if I’m wrong, but my understanding is that the problem with towing with a hybrid has to do with limitations in battery cooling under sustained heavy load. I’m not sure if there’s a way to engineer around that problem or not.

        If a Prius V could tow my 5×8 cargo trailer with a ton of stuff in it, I would consider it, even if it meant I didn’t get to shift gears.

        • 0 avatar
          stuki

          Diesel electric trains can tow. Even more than the latest Superduty, if I’m not mistaken…..

          For a hybrid, having a high torque electric motor help with startability, could help save transmissions and torque converters. Not to mention make manuals more viable again!!!

    • 0 avatar
      wumpus

      I’m guessing the real issues are:

      Internal politics in prying the Prius drivetrain out from the prius group (they probably took a beating making the thing, and don’t want to give it up).

      Battery longevity issues. Sure the prius goes 200k miles, but it barely touches those batteries. For anything not as purpose-oriented (toward mileage) as a prius, you will want more power (especially for something like a Lexus). Telsa power is easy, all you need is a Tesla-sized battery. LiFePO4 batteries promise all kinds of power (and fast charging), but are *way* too new for Toyota. Pretty much any means of pulling lots of power out of individual batteries (i.e. Tesla power from Prius batteries) is too new for Toyota. Best guess is that they can double the battery size and get 4 times the power (200hp total? Might work. Probably not “Lexus power”.)

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    How about hybrid styling development? Sure, the previous-gen cars’ styling is quirky, but the new one is downright ugly.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      The Fusion hybrid looks just like the Fusion non-hybrid. The Sonata hybrid looks just like the Sonata non-hybrid. Same is true of the Malibu.

      Hybrid does not equal Prius.

  • avatar
    redmondjp

    One of the biggest challenges of hybrid vehicle emissions is dealing with the fact that the engine starts and stops a lot and may never fully warm up. In order to minimize HC and CO emissions, the engine and catalyst needs to be hot.

    Ideally for emissions purposes, the engine is tiny and runs 100% of the time. But this goes against efficiency, so compromises must be made.

    • 0 avatar
      yamahog

      I don’t know how other manufacturer’s control schemes work, but Toyota doesn’t engage the start/stop functionality until the engine and emissions systems are at operating temperature.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Remember the standards are grams per mile so shutting down the engine does reduce it more than the warm starts increase it. I’m not sure if they are doing it on the current models but the older ones would harvest shut down heat and store it in a super insulated chamber. When the engine shuts down the coolant temp, particularly in the head, continues to rise for a few minutes. So it pumps that super heated coolant into the super insulated reservoir. Then when the engine is started potentially many hours later, that hot or warm coolant is pumped into the head to reduce warm up time and cold start emissions.

  • avatar
    OldManPants

    Yes, it’s a safety abomination bereft of rearward sight lines and it has the ground clearance of a roller skate but I love that thing in blue!

  • avatar
    shahroz

    Before releasing new models of cars in the name of fuel efficient cars i think they need to work on how they look seeing the latest model of Prius its shape is not that good and attractive coming towards the interior the car lacks in space of keeping stuff like laptops files and other office related things.

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    Here is the reason hybrids are not so great for towing.

    A standard practice for people towing is to utilize engine braking. Are there any people who tow who don’t know about engine braking? Many or most drivers who never tow either don’t bother or don’t even know about engine braking.

    A full hybrid can “engine brake”, sort of, by creating resistance by regeneration. But this only works until the hybrid battery is full. Given the relatively small size of hybrid batteries, and the fact that only part of the full capacity is used, and compared to the energy needing to be dissipated when descending large hills, the battery is soon full.

    After that, speed control is done almost entirely with the regular brakes. There is some provision for engine braking by raising the engine rpm, but it’s pretty weak.

    So a hybrid towing a trailer down a long steep hill is a setup for a disaster.

    I drive an Escape Hybrid up and down steep rough mountainous gravel logging roads. As much as 4000′ elevation change. The hybrid battery is soon full and after that I have to use the brakes. The solution to keeping them from overheating is to descend at the same speed as one would descend if you were engine braking with a low range. This gives the brakes time to cool off. But you could be a traffic hazard with a trailer creeping down a mountain pass at 5mph.

    Another reason may be that a full hybrid has no way to supply gas engine power to the wheels while in reverse. Reverse is only electric. The hybrid’s power in ev reverse mode may not be sufficient to reverse up an incline with a trailer. In fact, if a full hybrid is unable to move at all in reverse, such as would be the case if the wheels were against a curb, nothing would happen because the hybrid systems prevent current from flowing through an electric motor that is not rotating. In reality I have never heard of anyone being stranded this way, or frying the mechanical brakes.

    As automotive writers learn more about the quirks of hybrids there will be fewer mysteries such as why hybrids are not recommended for towing. There are other such aspects.

    If you want to see how much someone knows about hybrids, ask them to explain how Toyota’s power split device works. Or why hybrid makers are increasingly equipping the cars with braking effect by lifting off the throttle. It would be nice to not have to explain these things for the auto journalists.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      That currently offered hybrid cars aren’t the greatest of towers, does not imply hybrid cars are somehow, for all future, incapable of being built to tow. European long haulers are looking into hybrid drive trains that enable them to run diesel free inside city limits, as we speak.

      The effortless low rpm torque of electric motors, are in and of itself a boon to startability and low speed operation, which could dramatically simplify transmissions on heavy towers. And nothing conceptually prevents the use of the ICE for engine braking once the batteries are topped up, as long as the ICE isn’t dramatically undersized for the job, the way it is for current hybrids. Etc., Etc…. Of course, the added cost of doubling up drive trains are an issue. And so is, particularly for big rigs, the added weight and axle load of having to carry around batteries et al. So things work both ways.

  • avatar
    andyinatl

    That picture above accurately (in my experience) describes parking skills of the average Prius driver

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