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Toyota Hits Some Challenges in Designing Hybrid Drivetrain for Tundra

AutoWeek. Toyota’s work on a hybrid drivetrain for its next generation Tundra full-size pickup (discussed at the Detroit Auto Show in 2004) is presenting some challenges.

One of the sticking points, according to company executives, for a hybrid full-size pickup is the need to maintain towing and hauling power for long distances. While the electric drive system provides terrific low-end torque that is good for quick-effort heavy-lifting, it is less useful for towing and hauling applications.

As a result, in Toyota’s current view, options for downsizing the engine are limited—and that, in turn limits the fuel economy benefits of a hybrid drivetrain.

Toyota is conducting an engineering feasibility study to determine whether a Tundra hybrid can meet customer requirements. The Tundra is due for redesign in 2007.

Added Press: “We are designing our vehicles with hybrids in mind from the start. It’s more efficient that way. Tundra is prepared for that possibility.”

Press said big trucks are Toyota’s “biggest opportunity for growth.”

(A hat-tip to Jack Rosebro!)



In this situation I think Toyota should abandon the power split device and move straight into the series hybrid design that seems to be effective and reliable in busses. Maybe too expensive?


Hmm...I wonder what the people who trashed Chevy's Silverado "mild hybrid" will have to say about this.

Its obvious that hybrids aren't suited for some applications. Interesting that Toyota is still looking at trucks and SUV's as its "biggest opportunity."

Jonathan Peters

Having focused its R&D efforts on hybrids rather than clean diesel technology, seems Toyota is a bit caught out here since the math on hybrid pickup trucks doesn't really add up.

Diesel and biodiesel blends would obviously be the better choice for trucks.

little shop

I would not say toyota is 'caught out there' They can sell every hybrid they can make. They could downsize the engine a bit and just not sell that version for HEAVY towing. Most of the time the bed is empty and average loads would not cause a problem, even with a smaller engine. It would not be for towing a boat, but would be fine for a one ton load.

Mikhail Capone

Toyota said they had some problems and that it made designing more difficult, not that it was impossible and useless.

Lets wait and see what they come up with.


Toyota has some excelent diesels out on the market right now. They are way ahead of the europeans in that respect. They just don't sell in this country. For example the 2.2 litre d4d with 180 hp sold in the european market Corolla and Lexus IS.
I agree that Hybrid technology is not as well suited to heavy towing as diesel where constant speed torque not acceleration counts.

Joseph Willemssen

This seems more easily solved organizationally than technically - eg, with things like carsharing which allow for more easy occasional use of trucks with large towing capacities. Or mechanisms for making things like towing and hauling of heavy things less necessary.

Home Depot and similar places offer short-term rental of pickups, as well as delivery services - so that's one example of an organizational solution which offers a decent and affordable substitute.

Think of things like boats - why are people actually towing them? Are they launching these things in different locations? We had a big boat when I was growing up, and we could tow it with a passenger car and, once it got to our vacation home, stayed docked all summer. We launched it with an old tractor that everyone there shared. Nowadays, most people up there just store their boats nearby for the winter.

It's just hard to imagine that any more than 10% of the owners of F-150 size trucks and larger are actually frequently utilizing those trucks for the kinds of things they're uniquely capable of doing.


Hybrid technology would work fine for heavy duty, look at the GM hybrid buses, and the hybrid utility truck in the news on this site a few weeks ago.

The problem isn't hybrid technology... it is Toyota's approach. They are trying to use a parrellel hybrid system when a series hybid system (like Honda uses) would be far more effective.

Though there would still be issues going thrugh the mountains with a 20,000 Lbs trailer behind without a very large battery pack.


An AWD with the external rotor electric wheel drive, and BioDiesel driven - on demand generator - would be a simple and quick solution to their problem.

Too bad they are not open to innovation. Just like Ford and GM.

We'll get there someday, even if it takes a Bill Gates sort of entrepreneur.

little shop

Honda does not use a series hybrid system at all. A Series hybrid uses electric ONLY to power the wheels and uses a generator to make the power.

The Honda system is a mild or assist hybrid. The Toyota is a full or strong parallel hybrid.


What a tow vehicle needs is a TIGERS.  High-power, steady-demand situations are ideal for exhaust energy recovery systems.


right-ho 'engineer-poet'

To gain MPG:
downsize engine.
direct injection/lean burn etc...
Some form of hybridization.
As lightweight as possible while being strong and economic.

To gain back power from downsizing:

Fully variable valve timing.
Fully variable intake manifold volume and runner length.
Turbo and or super charge or combination.
Diesel with all of the above.
Direct injection with high comp ratio

Its sad. There are so many things in the pipeline, on the burner, or already in use. If they were just combined and integrated we could have some kick @ss stuff. Politics, and cheapness hold everything back.

Some manufacturer needs to have the cajon's to implement and integrate a combination of tactics to increase overall efficiency. Or maybe there is room for a new player to swoop in? Like as said above. A bill gates of the auto world. But what if our cars crashed, hung up, or needed to be re-booted every 15 miles? Okay, maybe a Bill Gates type person isn't such a good idea. :)


Electric motors not good for towing heavy loads! Seems to me that electric motors are the champs for towing heavy loads. I may be wrong but I thought they developed Max Torque throughout their speed range? So why do all trains use electric motors if they are not good for towing heavy loads?


Amen. Trains are diesel-hybrids. The diesel engine just makes electricity to run electric motors. How about aircraft carriers, and most sophisticated large ships. would you consider them a big load? They run off electric motors the nuclear power plant just makes electricity.
I would love a diesel-hybrid tundra to pull my 7000lb boat. Which I pull at least weekly and to many different places. Not everyone leaves their boat in a $3000 a year boat slip.


Toyota is among the top companies in the world in terms of making clean diesel engines. Check out Toyota's European lineup, or Hino's diesel trucks.

To those who say hybrids are not suitable in heavy duty uses, that is untrue. Hino has had hybrid diesels for over a decade, and GM among other companies has hybrid diesel busses.

Toyota will likely modify and improve their power split hybrid system, or use a system similar to the Hino hybrids.

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