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Toyota Ratchets Up Plug-In Prius Talk

By Jack Rosebro

In an interview published in the UK’s The Guardian, Toyota executive Shinichi Abe has been quoted as confirming that Toyota is working on plug-in hybrids, and as asserting that the next-generation Prius will have an all-electric range of about nine miles, or 14.5 kilometers.

According to The Guardian, Abe, who heads Toyota’s hybrid development program, further commented that future Toyota hybrids will be able to operate as mobile generators, and that the company is interested in the addition of electrical charging outlets to traditional gas stations as a step towards a petroleum-free future.

The comments are but the latest in a series of indicators that Toyota is increasingly interested in talking about—and working toward—a plug-in future for its hybrids.

Another UK publication, the Auto Express, recently published an article (earlier post) which included a Toyota engineer’s assertion that the next Prius, due in late 2007 as a 2008 model, is being designed with a fuel consumption target of 94 miles per gallon (US), or 2.5 l/100km.

And earlier this year, when asked by Green Car Congress if the hybrid Camry’s introduction now paves the way for a redesign of the Prius with even more radical technologies (earlier post), Dave Hermance of Toyota replied, “Absolutely.” Hermance made his comment at the third annual SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) Hybrid Symposium in San Diego in February.

Last year, Toyota exhibited a concept home in Japan (earlier post) that included a plug-in Prius. Designed in cooperation with Toyota’s home-building division, Toyota Home K.K., the Toyota Dream House Papi was touted as an environmentally friendly, energy-saving intelligent house that could interact with other Toyota technologies. The house was designed to be able to use the Prius as its sole energy source for up to 36 hours in emergencies, and to recharge the Prius when needed. At the time, Toyota said that it expected such technologies to be in use by 2010.

In February 2005, Toyota announced plans to lease a modified Prius capable of providing 3 kW at 120 volts to a rural electric cooperative in Oklahoma for field and market testing.


Max Reid


You mentioned Thermoelectric / Thermovoltaic.
Thermoelectric : Is it about converting heat into electricity and is there any device to do that.

Thermovoltaic : what is it.


Quality of energy folks

Heat is one of the least useable forms of energy.

The amount of work you gan get out of a heat engine is dependent on the difference in temp between you high temp and your low temp.

Think of a power plant as an example a small volume of steam is worth more than a large volume of warm water even if they have the same energy content.

I've not seen consumer grade devices that do this ... with the exception of running small things like a radio.

Based on the info you have provided I see no reason to belive that a > 6% boost is reasonable.

Max Reid

Interesting. I have read that vehicles utilise only 33% of energy and waste nearly 67%.

If we can grab another 6% +, that would be great.
But I guess nat-gas fired power plants get 50% utilisation.

On the economic side, Oil Consumption grew
3.5 % in 2004
1.5 % in 2005
even though World economy grew robustly. The reason is the switchover from Oil to Coal, Gas, Nuclear, Wind, etc and conservation and efficiency.

This year Oil consumption growth will be 0% if Hybrids & Flex fueled vehicles have their way and the Big Suv's fall in the wayside.

Jack Rosebro

"Interesting. I have read that vehicles utilise only 33% of energy and waste nearly 67%."

33%, unfortunately, is an optimistic number for a conventional passenger car. Toyota says that the current Prius has an efficiency of 37% - and that's quite an accomplishment. By comparison, Toyota estimates the Corolla to be only 16% efficient.

These numbers represent the efficiency of the vehicles themselves, and do not take into account the energy used to produce and deliver the fuel that they use. A well-to-wheel analysis drops the Prius to 32% and the Corolla to 14%, according to Toyota.

Max Reid

"A well-to-wheel analysis drops the Prius to 32% and the Corolla to 14%, according to Toyota."

How about well-to-wheel for electricity supply.
Instead of delivering oil products to retail gas station, if it is converted to electricity and supplied to homes to be charged into plugin Prius.

Whether its efficient to deliver electricity or transporting gasolene thru pipelines, trains & trucks.


Well-to-Wheel comparisons in the electric case are "mind"-blowing. Especially when you go "green". We did a comparison on the Renault Kangoo Elect'road .. which is a PHEV with approx 50 miles EV-Range.

Renault Kangoo was build in all different engine versions. Here is the "tank to wheel" consumption:
EV consumes 18 to 28 kWh/100 km
diesel consumes 70 to 50 kWh/100 km
gasoline consumes 85 to 60 kWh/100 km
natural gas consumes 130 to 70 kWh/100 km

A number of interesting conclusions from that:
- EV gets two times the milage if you put the natural gas into a power plant when compared to a natural gas engine
- EV gets four times the milage if you look at the city consumption of the natural gas version
- If the diesel is used in a cogeneration plant then the EV can drive at least the same miles as a diesel Kangoo. But when you go to the city the cogen-EV combo will easily outperform the diesel Kangoo.

If the Kangoo would not use NiCd batteries but the latest Lithium technology the milage would look even better.

Now when you start producing ethanol from straw and such it gets even more frustrating. Because buring the straw and producing electricity would get you as much milage as and ethanol car ... but burning it stationary would allow to use the heat in order to dry fruits, clean bottels or cool building etc. on the site if the powerplant.

Since there will never be a way to store the excess heat of an combustion engine inside the car PHEV and EVs are the only way to go ... they can run on wind energy and they free up valuable fuel for cogeneration and reduce the necessary amount of energy intensive biofuel production.

Max Reid

Thats interesting Tomi.
Natural gas supplied over pipelines directly to homes for CNG vehicles may be better than Gasolene / Diesel.

But electricity and plugins are the best, since it can come from multiple sources like nuclear, renewables, fossil fuels, etc.

Hope Toyota puts Ultracap / Flywheel in Prius-2008 as well to grab more braking energy.


Where did I write that CNG is better than Gasolene / Diesel?

I wrote the CNG is the biggest energy waste machine ever put inside a car. 130 kWh/100 km .. that is twice the energy consumption of the gasolene car!

CNG mihgt burn cleaner inside a car then the other fossile fuels ... but CNG has absolutely nothing to do with energy efficiency.

Since today is Tschernobyl day I would also like to stress that there is absolutely no reason to go after nuclear to run electric cars. Cogeneration based on biofuels (wood pellets, straw, biogas, plant oils etc.) combine with wind, solar, water and geothermal is the way to go a way lot cheaper and safer than nuclear can ever be.


Resent near-impossible emission regulation imposed on city buses in parts of US dictate use of stoichiometric NG IC engines. Clean diesel or even diesel-electric buses could not comply, according to recent EPA tests. So for fleet operated city service vehicles, such as delivery trucks, refuse trucks, and buses, NG engines probably are the best solution (they are really CLEAN). However, they do not produce cost benefits over diesel vehicles, due to high cost of maintenance of sophisticated high-pressure components. Personally I am agree to pay premium for super clean vehicles inside high populated areas. Hybrid drivetrain with NG engine would be the best. For personal transportation NG vehicles are totally out of question due to safety concerns – unlike fleet vehicles they could not be assured to get notorious maintenance essential to safely operation of any compressed NG vehicle.

Chernobyl: I am wondering what would be litigation costs for even micro-Chernobyl accident on American soil?

Max Reid

Oops, I got to differ here with our friends.

Japan & France will start putting Nuclear plants to power their plugin-hybrids and that 100 % sure.

There is an article on massive coal usage for
CTL (Coal-To-Liquids)
CTG (Coal-To-Gas)
CTE (Coal-To-Electricity)
in US in

If we do not use Nuclear, its Coal which is going to steal the show. Coal usage is growing at rapid pace with the replacement of Oil fired power plants / heaters with the Coal fired 1.

And how many Hurricanes / Floods (each with a power of few atom bombs) will be triggered by Coal is anyones guess.

Open your minds guys.

Tomi Engel

Sure, big big energy companies and "their elected governments" will either do coal or nuclear. Both "choices" are more or less going to kill us.

If they would do (micro-)cogeneration and solar-wind-biomasse they would go out of business in the long run, because they do not own your house or the farmers land ... and so this is not a real option. Solar can not be monopolized, so it is not an option.

But if you have a Plug-In-Hybrid you get the chance to choose your energy source. The real "fight" is not on the car sector but on the energy sector.

To say "if we do not use Nuclear, its Coal" is strange. Why do you drop all the other options?

Max Reid

Tomi Engel

I am not dropping other options.
Nuclear, Hydro, Wind, Geo, Solar, Bio-fuels : All these sources must be used.

In 2000, Coal provided 23 % of Worlds energy usage
in 2004, Coal grabbed 27 % share. At this rate, it will capture 40 % within a decade and push all other sources down. Thats my concern.


In an earlier post, Tomi quoted the following figures for gasoline and natural gas vehicle efficiencies:

"gasoline consumes 85 to 60 kWh/100 km
"natural gas consumes 130 to 70 kWh/100 km

The CNG figures have a much bigger variance than the gasoline figures. I think Max was observing that the best CNG systems were right on par with the typical gasoline systems (70 kWh/100 km).

That would allow a consumer to get NG piped directly to his own home, run a high efficiency Honda cogeneration unit, and tank up his car on the off moments. You can even run your stove on gas. Its convenient and possibly even somewhat cost-effective.


If one drives about 8 miles round trip to work and parks in an outdoor parking lot, can you get home on Solar Power? Can someone calculate the number of miles the car could be driven if a solar panel is placed on the car (assume the solar panel is about 3 feet by 6 feet). The car is in the lot 8 hours. I sent this question to Toyota and got one of those "no answer answers". Trying to figure out if one could plug into a solar source to recharge the battery.


The answer is that 9 miles range requires about 2 kWh of electrical energy.

Average incident solar energy in the USA is 5.5 kWh per metre squared per day (more in summer, less in winter).

The best solar cells can capture 20% of that (Sunpower A300), so you can get 1.1kWh of electricity per m2 per day on average.

To get your 9-mile range from solar you would therefore need on average 2 metres squared, or about the same size as the roof on the Prius. It's a nice fit.

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