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Toyota Announces Development of Plug-In Hybrid; First Manufacturer to Have PHEV Certified for Public Road Use in Japan

25 July 2007

Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) announced that it has developed a plug-in hybrid vehicle and become the first manufacturer to have such a vehicle certified for use on public roads in Japan. (Earlier post.)

The Toyota Plug-in HV—certified for public road-use by Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport—uses a NiMH battery pack and has an all-electric range of 13 kilometers (8 miles) under the 10-15 cycle with a maximum speed of 100 km/h (62 mph).

In its press release, Toyota said that:

Although challenges still exist in the development of pure electric vehicles such as a limited cruising range and issues related to cost, TMC still views plug-in hybrid vehicles as a promising technology for allowing electricity to serve as a viable power source for automobiles and is committed to their continued development as a key environmental technology.

Toyota will conduct public-road tests in Japan with eight units of the Plug-in HV to verify electric-motor-only cruising ranges and optimal battery capacity.  While doing so, it plans to provide the government with data for formulating testing methods for emissions and fuel efficiency and to consider TMC’s measures for promoting plug-in hybrids and the use of electricity.  Toyota also plans to conduct public-road tests of the Plug-in HV in the United States and in Europe.

Specifications of Toyota Plug-in HV
Vehicle Length/Width/Height 4,445/1,725/1,490 mm
Weight 1,360 kg
Seating capacity 5 persons
All-electric performance Cruising range 13 km in 10-15 cycle
Max. speed 100 km/h
Engine Displacement 1,496cc
Max. output 56 kW (75 hp) @ 5,000rpm
Max. torque 110 Nm (81 lb-ft) @ 4,000 rpm
Motor Type AC synchronous
Max. output 50 kW (67 hp) @ 1,200 - 1,540rpm
Max. torque 400 Nm (295 lb-ft) @ 0-1,200 rpm
Secondary battery Type NiMH
Capacity 13 Ah (6.5 Ah x 2)
Rated voltage 202V
Overall System Maximum Output 100 kW (134 hp)
Voltage 202 - 500V
Battery charging Power source Household electrical power
Charging time 1 - 1.5 hrs (200V); 3 - 4 hrs (100V)

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Toyota's announcement confirms we can have plug-in hybrids now, with today's technology and today's infrastructure. We've been working for this moment since 2002. This milestone validates PHEVs as the best next step -- soon to become mass-produced and affordable.

Finally, hybrids green-tuned by CalCars.org and others will be joined by ones from the world's largest carmaker, with the resources to build better PHEVs than volunteer engineers!

The world's car industry is watching this momentous transition -- as is every advocate of solutions to global warming and oil addiction. Now plug-in advocates will work to get other carmakers into the race to get PHEVs on the road. CalCars.org, other advocates and government will roll out a green carpet for every company that wants to compete with Toyota.

-- Felix Kramer, Founder, The California Cars Initiative

The small battery is disappointing; and an 8 mile range is equally disappointing. I wonder if Toyota will explain why they didn't go for at least a 40 mile range? Is it excessive weight, too expensive for the market? Will they offer a larger battery as an accessory? Is Cobasys (Chevron Oil) limiting their use of the NiMH battery technology by controlling the patent? What about a deal with Firefly for their lighter, cheaper lead acid battery? What happened here, Toyota?

Perhaps some enterprising company will offer a reasonable DIY range upgrade when Firefly Batteries make it to the market. I hope so.

P.S.: Having said all that above, I would like to join with Felix Kramer in congratulating Toyota in crossing the line and introducing the PHEV. And, I believe improving the range of the car, by hook or crook, is only a matter of time.

At first this looks like super good news until you read that Toyota uses a NiMH battery of an almost pathetic capacity of 2.6 kWh giving it an all electric range of 8 miles. It is hardly more powerful than the Prius battery. The good thing is that with such a small battery and such old technology the car will cost almost no more than a Prius and Toyota will not take any important liability risk that could importantly delay this car’s introduction to the market. This news also add further confirmation to the rumor that Toyota has made a big development error betting on the wrong battery chemistry using the instable LiCoO2 chemistry instead of the more stable LiFePO4 and LiMn2O4. For this reason it could very well be that GM’s Volt will be able to beat Toyota with regard to be first to introduce a PHEV to the market.

Henrik ,
You really think the "volt" will reach prodution ?

Yes this Volt will reach production. The Volt is already doing a lot of good in terms of improving GMs image as a ‘green’ vehicle manufacture. At the moment they are not at all green but if they can get this Volt into production they will be recognized as a world leader in green car manufacturing. To some degree GMs future depends on the success of the Volt project. Note also that the Volt is using state of the art PHEV technology whereas the Toyota project in my opinion looks as an almost desperate attempt to market a PHEV before GMs Volt project goes online in 2010.

8 miles (13 kms)!? Is this a joke? Just more Toyota PR without any substance.

This is just an ordinary Prius with two of the standard 1.3 kWh packs in parallel.

So it could theoretically be sold tomorrow (all safety profiles, reliability, crash testing etc have already been performed for these batteries) at a premium of only $1,000 over a base Prius.

I think a lot of people would spend an extra $1,000 to get 8 miles EV range.

These are great news. Here is why: By using the soon obsolete NiMH battery Toyota proves the obvious (PHEV can work reliably even with a "substandard" battery). Once Lithium batteries beat NiMH batteries in EVERY aspect (price per KW*hr, and production volume to name a few), Toyota will make the switch at once. It would be wonderful if Toyota/Panasonic would just license the Altair Nano and/or A123 Systems technologies and slash the time for a real PHEV with 60 mile electric range to come to the market but the truth is that none of us know how close Panasonic is from producing their own Lithium batteries for electric and PHEVs. It all comes down to this: Toyota has an astronomical lead and there is no benefit in taking engineering risks at this point.
After all, even Tesla Motors is doing exactly the same with their Lithium battery pack: They found a good enough battery that can do the job, designed an overly complicated cooling/warming system for the battery pack, and they are going to stick to their guns with this battery pack until they actually sell enough cars to make some money on their product. As the battery power density increases and the internal resistance decreases, Tesla Motors thermal management system becomes less relevant (it is already irrelevant for the common car).
Again, Tesla is able to use substandard batteries because they seem to have a huge lead in the electric car market (even though they have not sold a single car yet). This is what happens when there is no serious competition: You can become overly conservative and still keep your lead. Good for them, bad for the rest of us.

An all-electric range of 13 km is not as useless as it seems. It does one important thing: preventing cold starts. Cold starts are BAD.

Depending on how many short trips you make, this could reduce the number cold starts by perhaps as much as 50%. This has a huge impact on the total pollution that this vehicle produces.

This is good news coming from Toyota. One must walk before they can run. Yes, the electric range is poor and the battery technology is old, but they are still learning (Everyone is learning). What Toyota doesn't want to do is ruin their hybrid reputation. Yes, they could try to use the latest technology and bring it to market. But, if consumers start to have problems with this new car, then Toyota sales could suffer significantly. They went with what they know. From there, they can swap in newer battery technology, more efficient electric motors, and more efficient control systems.
From what I hear, the next model of Prius will have a lithium ion battery in a couple of years. In those couple of years, they can learn a lot from this current round of testing and how to incorporate a plugin into this new model.

As for GM and the Volt, bring it on. Competition can only make better more efficient hybrids. But my concern is that GM has a poor track record of bringing concepts to reality in this area. Until actual product is being sold in the showroom, the Volt is only a dream.

Did I miss something? Doesn't a plug-in such as this increase the regular MPG for the car? If we're achieving 100 MPG, is 8 mile all electric range really that bad?

I'm sure quite a few people will take a "this isn't good enough" attitude towards this car, but this is another good evolutionary baby step in the right direction. Once they hit the market here in the U.S., I'll be in line to buy one.

Nice stuff... tough to keep track of all that is happening. I end up reading 100 odd blogs daily. Plus there is news. You could also enrich your blog by adding current news on your blog... try out the news widget from widgetmate.com

13 km electric range would cover about 70-80% of all car trips (http://themes.eea.europa.eu/Sectors_and_activities/transport/indicators/spatial/TERM14,2001/Access_to_basic_services.pdf) here in the EU; the median distance of a trip taken by car is about 6 km (half of all trips taken are only up to 6 km).

13 km would cover most city driving, thereby eliminiating emissions where their impact is most severe.

I can only congratulate Toyota to this bold step, and hope that the Prius III will have an PHEV (factory)option (2nd battery pack, modified HV control algorithms to allow 100 km/h in pure electric mode, and of course an electric oil pump to have proper lubrication - that's the main issue of the DIY mods being done so far, in my eyes;

I hope the PHEV Prius will indeed make it to europe for testing, to have a look :)

I'll replace my P1 only with a PHEV (200 000km and still going strong)...

AtairNano and Phoenix Motorcars seem to be only a couple of weeks away from delivering the goods.
Nanosafe is the proven real deal for EV-HEV-PHEV(PMC-Lightning-ISE-Alcoa deals) and GRID balancing(AES deal).
I'd say to Toyota the game has changed and they better play it safe: NANOSAFE.
Plugin2Go, Plugin2G,Plugover,PluginFleet.com are altairnative.com ideas.

Almost any news of PHEV's is good news these days. I'm glad to see progress in that direction, although being honest, the 8 mile range takes a lot of wind out of the sails. Just was hoping for something a little more robust on behalf of the veritable hybrid experts that are Toyota, (no sarcasm intended). I guess we as advocates of the green should be happy and accepting that there is progress being made, and get behind any of these efforts, even if they are baby steps.

This is very good - it should mean that all the bumper to bumper driving can be done on the EV side. This is where the main benefits will be.
The benefits of highway driving on EV. vs. ICE will be much less, so 8 miles e-driving is a good thing.
It will also encourage people to get charging stations at work.
Unlike the dreamers, Toyota have to write warranties.

Keep in mind that with a larger motor, this will go 62 mph. Current conversions, I think, only go about 30 mph. So, it is not just about the battery and this makes it practical for highway driving, a big improvement.

The motor is the same 50 kW unit as in the existing Prius. Battery power is up from 21 kW to 44 kW.

The increase to 62 mph has been enabled by a revised power-split device, which allows higher speed EV use without having to spin the engine (this previously is the real reason for the low max EV speed of the Prius).

At first I was upset by the short amount of range in electric mode. But it sounds like the perfect thing for most short car trips, so, kickass.

It would seem they are creating a platform on which they can test future battery technologies. By using the existing technologies they get real world experience with all the other bits of the car (engine, lubrication, AC/Heating demands etc) which may give them valuable data while securing a contract with higher energy density battery suppliers.

This seems to be a wise and valuable step by Toyota in breaking into PEHV technologies.

Amazing how many people think they're qualified to run the world's most successful auto company.

What would the range be at 50mph? 45mph?

No one noticed so far that this Plug-in Prius has another advantage over the current model: better performance. Due to the stronger batter, the maximum power has risen by almost 20% from 84 to 100 kW.

Well, probably no one is interested, it's GREENcarcongress after all....

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