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Coming Soon: Hydrogen and Electric Vehicles From Toyota


By Micheline Maynard
New York Times
January 12, 2009


Masatami Takimoto, a Toyota executive vice president and board member, disclosed
the company’s hydrogen plans in an interview at the show.Toyota plans to begin
selling a hydrogen-powered car in 2015, and a two-seater electric vehicle in
2012, the company announced Tuesday at the North American International Auto Show.

Toyota’s announcements came a day after it said it would introduce a plug-in
hybrid-electric vehicle late this year, a year ahead of schedule.

The announcements came on top of the introduction of the third-generation Prius
hybrid, which Toyota unveiled on Monday, and a new dedicated hybrid for Lexus,
the HS250h, which it announced on Tuesday.

Toyota’s efforts are part of a broad company focus on alternative-fuel vehicles,
which is receiving increased funding despite a financial crisis facing the
automaker. Toyota expects to post a $1.7 billion operating loss for 2008 — its
first in 70 years — although it will report a net profit for the year.

Masatami Takimoto, a Toyota executive vice president and board member, disclosed
the company’s hydrogen plans in an interview at the show. “By 2015, we will have
a full-fledged commercialization effort,” Mr. Takimoto said.

Although it has researched hydrogen use for years, Toyota lags behind other auto
companies in introducing hydrogen-powered vehicles to the public. BMW began
manufacturing a hydrogen luxury car, the Hydrogen 7, in 2006, while Honda offers
the FCX Clarity, a hydrogen-powered sedan. Both are available to lease customers.

Detroit automakers also have investigated hydrogen vehicles, most notably
General Motors, which has said its hydrogen cars could reach showrooms as early as 2011.

Toyota is testing a hydrogen version of the Highlander, a crossover vehicle that
is available with a hybrid-electric powertrain. The Highlander, also known as
the FCHV, for fuel cell hydrogen vehicle, is on display at the Detroit show.
Like other auto industry executives, Mr. Takimoto said the future of hydrogen
vehicles depends on consumer acceptance as well as the availability of hydrogen
refueling stations. “On each side, it will take time,” he said.

But he said Toyota had to proceed. “We will run out of any alternative
strategies if the oil supply diminishes,” Mr. Takimoto said. “Oil consumption
will increase, and the supply could become unstable.”

Looking well into the future, Mr. Takimoto said Toyota believes the future of
the car market relies on three strategies: pure electric vehicles, which would
be used by urban dwellers; hybrid-electric vehicles, including plug-in hybrids,
and hydrogen fuel cell cars.

He doesn’t see an end to the internal combustion engine, which has been auto
companies’ primary choice since the beginning of the 20th century. “I don’t
think the I.C.E. will disappear in the future, but the future depends on what
kinds of cars are sustainable,” Mr. Takimoto said.

 

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