Toyota Motor Company outlined its vision for the future of motoring this week in an interview with Toyota CEO Kastuaki Watanabe and head of Toyota's hybrid development program, Shinichi Abe. The company envisages 'accident-proof eco-cars,' powered by a non-polluting engine that makes the air cleaner, and running on open roads free of congestion, accoring to the interview published in the UK's Guardian.
Toyota, which is on course to become the world's biggest carmaker this year, says its vision could become reality in 10-20 years. According to the interview, by the year 2050, the group envisages a 'recycling society' where "there would be no petrol stations, instead vehicles would run on hydrogen produced using renewable energy."
Mr. Watanabe is quoted as saying:
"For us to become the genuine number one - in quality - we have to realise the dream vehicle, which makes the air cleaner, never injures people, makes people healthier and can run on a single tank of fuel between London and Istanbul."Sounds good to me, although I'd rather see that renewable energy flowing into plug-ins and EVs.
On that note, Toyota also confirmed in the interview that they are working on plug-ins, claiming that the third generation Prius, due out in 2008, will have a nine-mile all-electric range. According to the interview:
Toyota is working on plans for "plug-ins" for the battery from the grid at fuel stations, with future hybrids carrying a traditional power-point for domestic appliances to be used outside the home. Mr Abe said the next Prius model will be able to do a nine-mile commute to work without using any petrol or diesel.Nine miles is pretty small for a plug-in, but its a start.
In a recently published article in AutoExpress, Toyota engineers claimed that the redesigned 2008 Prius would be the first production car to reach over 110 mpg [note: this is in Imperial gallons which are slightly larger than U.S. gallons]. Toyota said their engineering target was an ambitious 94 mpg [now we're talking U.S. gals] or 40km/litre. The AutoExpress article also reported that Toyota engineers are working on lithium-ion batteries for the next gen Prius (the current model uses Nickel Metal-Hydride batteries) which would probably be requisite if they hope to reach their fuel economy target.
The AutoWeek article spawned plenty of enlivened speculation and rumor (see Green Car Congress and the Energy Blog, for example) about how plausible this 94 mpg fuel economy target was. The confirmation that the 2008 Prius will have at least a small all-electric range indicates that it might be possible, assuming that they make certain assumptions about driving habits and count the electrical energy as free (which it of course isn't by either monetary or environmental measures).
The Toyota executives also highlighted their work on hydrogen vehicles, specifically mentioning the Fine-X/Fine-T concept car discussed here recently.
Mr. Watanabe told the Guardian he wants to eliminate the environmental damage caused by cars and is planning for the period when the world's reserves of oil and gas are expected to run out: around the middle of this century, by his reckoning. Mr Watanabe and his board are investing 4%-5% of the group's global turnover of 18 trillion yen ($156.64 billion USD) in hybrid vehicles, based not just on petrol but on diesel, biofuels such as ethanol and biomass, all-electric motors and fuel cells, the Guardian reports. "We are aiming at making a quantum leap in the next 10 years," said Shinichi Abe, head of Toyota's hybrid division.
We'll be waiting...