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Toyota Outlines Technology Strategy for Alternative Powertrains: Right Vehicle, Right Place, Right Time

Toyota says it is pursuing all of these energy and powertrain pathways. The brick walls in the diagram represent barriers to be overcome. Click to enlarge.

In a presentation at the recent Toyota Environmental Forum held in June in Japan, Masatami Takimoto, Executive Vice President, outlined the company’s technology strategy for meeting the needs of a “sustainable mobility society”. (Earlier post.)

Hybrid—and plug-in hybrid—technology is core to Toyota’s plans, but Takimoto described a range of efforts across conventional powertrain development, alternative fuels, biofuels, electricity, and hydrogen pathways that Toyota believes will be required.

Because of the many obstacles that must be overcome because of alternative energy source, more than one type of vehicle will have to be used to obtain the sustainable mobility society, and because in each region, the energy situation is different.

Toyota believes it is important to provide different vehicles with different powertrains capable of using the remaining precious oil carefully, and using alternative energy sources. Based on the energy market situation from region to region, our goal is to achieve CO2 emissions reduction and cleaner atmosphere with the right vehicle, in the right place, at the right time.

Therefore, as described in the dotted line in the graph [see above], we plan to combine hybrid and plug-in hybrid technology with various types of different powertrains to help solve the environmental and energy issues we face and to achieve a sustainable mobility society.

—Masatami Takimoto

Takimoto discussed five broad categories of development work:

  • Further development of gasoline- and diesel-fueled combustion engines;
  • Hybrids and plug-in hybrids;
  • Alternative fuels, including synthetics and biofuels;
  • Electric vehicles; and
  • Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
Toyota’s directions in powertrain development. Click to enlarge.

Gasoline and diesel combustion engines.Gasoline and diesel will remain the mainstay for the time being, Takimoto said. Because peak oil is “undoubtedly getting closer”, it is important to use the remaining oil carefully. Toyota is trying to improve fuel economy by making smaller, lighter-weight vehicles and improving powertrain efficiency.

The company believes that it will be necessary to improve vehicle weight and size reductions in the future, and to be applied in all its vehicles.

Toyota is introducing new 1.3- and 2.5-liter gasoline engines this year. The 1.3-liter engines applied in upcoming vehicles will have a new stop-start system. By the end of 2010 TMC will complete the transition to a new series of highly efficient engines and transmissions.

Important directions for future engine development includes downsizing through the use of direct injection and supercharging; work on homogeneous charge compression ignition, and work on a variable compression ratio mechanism.

Hybrids and plug-in hybrids. Toyota’s goal is to have hybrid models for all its vehicle series by 2020. Achieving that will require ongoing reduction in the size and weight of the component technology, Takimoto said.

With its most recent electric motor (in the LS600h), Toyota is delivering output density of 3x that of the current generation Prius. Likewise, the inverter output density ratio has also increased 3x from the current Prius generation.

Toyota is also increasing the output density of its NiMH battery packs. Although Toyota has Li-ion work under development, NiMH will remain a major chemistry for its hybrids, Takimoto said. Toyota plans differentiated usage of NiMH and Li-ion, with the lithium-ion packs heading initially to plug-in hybrid vehicles and to small, short-distance electric vehicles. Future, larger EVs will be based on a next-generation battery chemistry.

The plug-in hybrid, Takimoto said, “is the most realistic option for utilizing electricity [as an alternative fuel] at the present time.

He re-affirmed that Toyota will introduce a Li-ion-based plug-in by 2010 geared toward. Toyota, which is also researching photovoltaic power generation and biofuels, suggests that supplying PV electricity to a biofuel plug-in is a means of completely eliminating CO2 emissions.

Alternative fuels. With a diminishing conventional oil supply, Toyota sees the coming shift of production to nonconventional crude such as deep sea and oil sands as increasing and raising cost.

From a medium-term perspective, automobiles will have to use gas fuels such as natural gas, or synthetic fuels made from coal or biomass. However, with gas fuels, the limited cruising distance proves difficult. With synthetic fuels, we need low cost and reduced CO2 emissions during fuel synthesis. Therefore, from the viewpoint of reducing CO2 emissions, it will be necessary to utilize biofuels such as bioethanol and biodiesel.

—Masatami Takimoto

Toyota is conducting research on the conversion of wood chips and other biomass to ethanol, and is also partnering with Nippon Oil on researching Bio Hydrofined Diesel (BHD)—a renewable diesel produced by the hydrotreatment of vegetable oils or fats.

Electricity. Despite the attraction of electricity as a power source for transportation, a number of issues remain, Takimoto said, including the energy density of the batteries; infrastructure issues (such as recharging facilities); and the greenhouse gas output from thermal power generation.

Toyota is targeting “revolutionary” energy storage systems. Click to enlarge.

Although Toyota plans to accelerate its development of small electric commuting vehicles, it is focusing on the development of next-generation batteries with greater energy densities than offered by current lithium-ion systems before ordinary vehicles can become EVs. The company is establishing a battery research department “to accelerate R&D on these new revolutionary batteries”. Examples of such batteries adduced in the presentation include solid-state lithium, and metal-air batteries, with the potential for a “Sakichi” battery.

Sakichi Toyoda, the inventor of Japan’s first power loom and called by some the father of the Japanese industrial revolution, founded in 1926 the Toyoda Automatic Loom Works and what would eventually become the Toyota Group. A “Sakichi” battery would represent breakthrough innovation that would re-define an industry.

Hydrogen fuel cells. Toyota continues to develop its fuel cell vehicles, most recently introducing its latest version of the FCHV. (Earlier post.)

On top of the challenges of the vehicle technology, the hydrogen related infrastructure and CO2 emissions reduction needs to be established in related areas. We shall aggressively cooperate with related parties.



Bill W


A monopoly in what?

If they can sell every car they can make without the latest innovation, good for them. It seems that supply and demand is working. People want Toyotas product. You dont have to buy TMC automobiles. There are about 100+ other cars out there to buy.

I agree that the ICE MOTOR has a bunch of parts an electric motor does not have, but:
EV has a battery pack and it has be vented, maybe heated or cooled, parts a ICE motor does not have. It also has to carry a charger, more parts, not part of an ICE car. The EV has a transmission, albeit simpler. You still have power steering and power brakes and AC that has to be powered when the main engine is not running, that is generally done with another electric motor with a controller, not part of an ICE car. There has to be a controller for the main electric motor, it is electronic part too, that is some more parts, it has to be cooled as well. The interior of the EV car is the same as an ICE car, windows/radio/dash lights/wipers/seats need to be powered too. That is another power conversion from the battery pack, more electronic parts. Or it can have its own battery pack, more parts. As I said there are at least as many details in an EV car that an ICE car has, just NOT THE SAME details as an ICE car.

Unfortunately for many automakers, perfection is what many automotive consumers buy. Ask anyone what they would rather own, a 15 year old Toyota or a 15 year old "any thing else", I have a feeling most buyers will pick the Toyota.

As I said before, if you want a less than gold plated EV, build one yourself, you can have one in a few weeks...try


Stas wrote:

"Many who post here are impatient."

Unfortunately the Earth's climate system cares not one iota about the internal goings-on of car manufacturers. Arctic ice is melting at a rate well beyond what anyone predicted 10 years ago.

10 years ago the first real electric cars were invented and we STILL don't have an offering from a big car company.

SOMEHOW, Tesla, a small startup company, has overcome all the hurdles and produced a successful, capable electric car. It's not cheap, but it is undeniably a technically successful EV. There is no reason in the world why Toyota or GM could not have done this if they had so chosen. They have no excuses beyond ignorance and greed.

"Many who post here have no comprehension of modern science and technology, or how mass manufacture works."

I find this highly ironic coming from someone who has made so many ignorant, uninformed, angry rants on this site towards any topic outside of the scope of ICE's. You are at times an embarrassment to the engineering profession.

Bill W

Then there is the weight of the will probably have ensure that the bearing/bushings/brakes are up to the increased static weight. The extra weight will affect the handling of the car too. The electric motor may be lighter than the ICE motor; the batteries are in the back, so weight distribution not the same as a typical ICE car. That will mean a couple of months at the track to make sure that every one from your grandma to the ignorant teenager feel safe and comfy when they are driving in LA in summer or in Helsinki Finland in winter.

Then you have to attach the battery pack to the car. Do you attach each battery individually? Those attachments have to survive an impact from the front and sides. It has to survive a roll over after an impact. You will have to consider how an emergency team will respond to the EV after an impact. I am sure people will want to repair the car after a small accident, will there be any special techniques for repair on the EV?

How do you perform maintenance on the battery pack and the power control systems? They are pretty reliable but there may be a failure or two. Are they accessible and repairable?

You also have to consider the end-of-life of the car.

What if the car sits at the airport for a couple of weeks? Driven through a flooded road after a thunder storm, is the pack OK, are the controllers, charger going to be OK?


I disagree. The industry is not in disarray. This is a fluff piece. Every major auto company is has a major alliance with an Li Ion battery manufacture and is working to to produce a BEV and/or an E-REV. The later is the same as the former with a small generator and tank added on. The ICE generator will be easy to convert to use any fuel, or designed to burn any fuel.
Hydrogen is not economical now, improvements are needed in several tech areas, and so it is at least ten years off. Even then, if it happens, hydrogen is just another fuel source for an E-REV.
Toyota has the market lead with the Prius. They would like to get to an E-REV by incremental changes in the Prius. They'd sell more cars this way. Competition from GM, Nissan/Renault, Mitsubishi, and others will not allow them to do this. I suspect their 2010 PHEV will be a full blown E-REV. We'll see. The shoe has already dropped that they like Li Ion batteries for this, in spite of what they said before. Together with Matsushita they will begin Li Ion battery production next year, with full production in 2010.
Bill W also has a good point. If they produce less than a perfect Li Ion PHEV then it will cost them market share. The race here is not just about first to the market, it's also about best to the market.


The Aptera EV supposed to start shipping in Nov 2008. The Aptera E-REV to start shipping in 2009. They have a video of the car at their site. I’ve personally seen it. It’s not vaporware, just very well designed and revolutionary in its’ performance. Is it news that startups move faster than large companies?

Anonymous said:
"Those sky high PHEV mpg numbers are always pretty fishy and certainly don't represent what an EPA test would get."

You're missing an important point. The mpg for PHEVs should be specified in a different form. You need to know all-electric range (e.g. 50 miles for GM Volt) and hybrid mode mpg after that (e.g. 50 mpg for GM Volt). The mpg for soft, or parallel/series, PHEVs like the modified PHEV Prius is further complicated by the fact they use the ICE at higher speeds and to assist in hard acceleration. A Series-PHEV, or Extended-Range Electric Vehicle (E-REV), does not have this limitation and will not use any gasoline for the all-electric range. GM Volt and Aptera are good E-REV examples. They will have infinite mpg for their all-electric range. They use no gasoline for that range. After the all-electric it's a math problem what your mpg is. If you go 40 miles all-electric in the Volt and then go another 40 miles (80 total) in hybrid mode then you'll get 100 mpg. At 120 miles total (80 in hybrid mode) you'll get 75 mpg. At 160 miles, 66 mpg. Your mpg will approach your hybrid mpg (50 mpg for Volt) at longer ranges. The Aptera has a 120 mile all-electric range and easily over 100 mpg in hybrid mode, so it will do much better in total mpg. (I don't know exactly for the hybrid mode because it is not described that way. Fair game specmanship.)
You can do the same with a PHEV Prius is you accelerate slow enough and drive slow enough. Most people don't do this so you don't get the full benefit of the all-electric mode. This is one of the advantages of a full Series PHEV (or E-REV) over a Parallel/Series PHEV (or soft PHEV). The main benefit of an E-REV life the Volt or Aptera over the PHEV Prius. This is why most auto companies are working on an E-REV, probably including Toyota.


Three significant advantages of Extended-Range Electric Vehicles (E-REVs):
1. Ability to drive all-electric even at freeway speeds for 40 plus miles means most (>75%) of USA drivers will use no gasoline or diesel except on occasional longer trips. None for normal commuting and errands.
2. The drive systems is all-electric without the complexity of the parallel ICE drive system in HEVs/PHEVs like the Prius. Also, all-electric drive systems are simpler than ICE drive systems. This will translate to lower cost of production and lower maintenance cost as production volumes increase to the same levels.
3. One of the efficiencies of ICEs in current cars is using them at varying rpms. If you are using the ICE only as an on/off generator then it can be run at an optimal speed at the knee of the power curve. Better, an even more efficient high speed turbine or SOFC can be used. Bottom line is the generator in an E-REV can be better optimized for efficiency than you will ever be able to do with the motor in an ICE car.

Some misconceptions:
1. We'll have to wait for higher density batteries.
Answer: Nope, the real problem has been cycle life and POWER density. You need to be able to deep cycle the several thousand times without degrading its' performance too much. You need the battery to handle more power for acceleration and better regenerative breaking. These capabilities are now available from several manufactures of Li Ion batteries. Greater energy density would be nice, but E-REVs make very high density batteries unnecessary. (There's a range extender generator for that.) Li Ion batteries do have higher energy density than NiMH batteries.
2. We need batteries with fast charge times.
Answer: Nope, overnight charging will work fine for most people. Most already have a 110 VAC plug available at home for this. Soon hotels and stores will offer the same plug-in while you sleep or shop service. Easy to meter and charge for this. Fast charge times would be nice to have, but are not necessary.


A few things:

Exactly WHERE did Toyota say the next-gen Prius would achieve 99mpg? I'd like to see a link or proof. Also, what testing method is this based on, and what gallons are used? Is this 99mpg using UK gallons or US gallons? Is this 99 mpg based on the ancient 10-15 Japanese testing method?

I think some of you are in disarray, and have misinterpreted what Toyota has said. Fact is, Toyota DOES know where the market is going. How else do you think they were able to have the long-term vision that hybrids would become popular? Toyota is putting most of it's focus on a few key areas, namely regular gas and diesel engines as well as hybrid/electric vehicles. The rest is either development for different regions or just Toyota wanting to have a hand in everything out there.

Fact is, a lot of automakers research ALL KINDS of different things, but that does not mean these things make it to production.

Let me say that again: research does NOT equal a production vehicle.

Toyota definitely has a next-gen battery technology in development to supercede li-ion. Otherwise, Toyota would make no mention of it.

Lastly, if anyone here thinks Toyota is a monopoly, or is anti-competitive you clearly have no idea what you're taking about.


Also to add, Toyota HAS confirmed that BOTH li-ion batteries and the next-gen Prius will be in production next year.


Looks like 94 mpg was the rumor over a year ago when Toyota was still considering using Li Ion battery: (94 mpg Prius by 2008)


They better add "right price" to their tag line. With Honda coming out with a $2000 price premium hybrids and people not being able to refinance their homes for new cars, the price will be a major factor.


Key word is rumor. That mileage figure was NEVER officially stated as fact by Toyota.


Yes, you have a good point. It was a rumor and it was back when Toyota was still considering Li Ion battery for generation 3 of the Prius. Now they're going with NiMH in the gen 3, which may come out next year. This represents an opportunity for GM with the Volt, Aptera, and others with E-REV vehicles. If Toyota continues to protect the HEV Prius and make slow progress, then they may lose some market share. Maybe not. Maybe it's more about volume right now for them. 45 mpg HEV compared to 100 mpg E-REV is going to bring a fair number of buyers, even at higher prices. I hope to be one of them.


Hopefully the 1.3L they mention will be available here in the Yaris soon.Toyota had mentioned elsewhere that they would offer VALVEMATIC ( on all models by 2010,maybe this 1.3 will feature this technology.It is exciting to see the R+D money going towards small displacement engines instead of SUVs and big sixes.

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