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Toyota Unveils Dedicated Hybrid Concept, Plan for “Prius Family”; Expands Fuel Cell Vehicle Demonstration Program in the US

The FT-CH concept. Click to enlarge.

Toyota Motor Sales (TMS) USA unveiled the FT-CH dedicated hybrid concept at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit. The FT-CH is a concept that would address Toyota’s stated strategy to offer a wider variety of conventional hybrid choices to its customers, as it begins to introduce plug-in hybrids (PHVs) and battery electrics (BEVs) in model year 2012, and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCHVs) in 2015 in global markets.

The CH stands for compact hybrid as in compact class. Compared to Prius, it is 22 inches shorter in overall length, yet loses less than an inch in overall width. Jim Lentz, TMS president, confirmed in his speech at NAIAS that TMS is developing a Prius family “marketing strategy” for North America that will take full advantage of the Prius brand equity, and said that “among others, the FT-CH is a concept that we are considering.”

Within the next 10 to 20 years, we will not only reach peak oil we will enter a period where demand for all liquid fuels will exceed supply. A century after the invention of the automobile, we must re-invent it with powertrains that significantly reduce or eliminate the use of conventional petroleum fuels. One of many alternatives is through what is commonly called the electrification of the automobile. By far, the single most successful example of this has been the gas-electric hybrid.

—Jim Lentz

Lentz said that advanced electric drive vehicles—battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles—both face challenges including cost, fueling infrastructure and range.

The cost of lithium ion batteries…needs to be reduced significantly…or a more affordable alternative developed. Like hydrogen fuel cells, battery-electrics will require the creation of infrastructure for re-charging, on the go. And then there is range. Even at 100 miles, BEVs as a primary mode of transportation do not yet offer what most consumers see as true mobility.

Toyota believes these are hurdles that will be cleared. Which is why, for the last decade our focus has been to concentrate on a comprehensive advanced technology strategy including BEVs, PHVs, and fuel cells. Common to all-three is the move to electrification, and how lessons learned from conventional hybrid R&D have given us a leg-up on all three.

—Jim Lentz

Eight new hybrids. In the early 2010s, Toyota plans to sell a million hybrids per year globally, a majority of those in North America. To accomplish this, Toyota will launch eight all new hybrid models over the next few years. These will not include next generation versions of current hybrids; instead, they will be all new dedicated hybrid vehicles, or all new hybrid versions of existing gas engine models.

Panasonic EVE Battery Production Capacity
Later this year, Toyota’s joint venture partnership with Panasonic—Panasonic EV Energy (PEVE)—will have three separate, fully operational production facilities with a combined capacity of more than one million units per year.

Since the early 90’s, during the early stages of first-generation Prius development, Toyota has been committed to in-house R&D of advanced nickel-metal hydride batteries. Through three generations of Prius and a total of seven full-hybrid models, it has systematically reduced size, weight and cost while improving energy density, quality and reliability.

Plug-ins. Toyota recently kicked off its global demonstration program involving approximately 600 Prius plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHV). (Earlier post.) Beginning early this year, 150 PHVs will begin to arrive in the US where they will be placed in regional clusters with select partners for market/consumer analysis and technical demonstration.

The Prius PHV introduces Toyota’s first generation lithium-ion drive battery. When fully charged, the vehicle is targeted to achieve a maximum electric-only range of about 13 miles and capable of achieving highway speeds of more than 60 mph in electric-only mode. For longer distances, the Prius PHV reverts to “hybrid mode” and operates like a regular Prius.

All program vehicles will be equipped with data retrieval/communication devices which will monitor activities such as: how often the vehicle is charged and when, whether the batteries are depleted or being topped-off during charging, trip duration and all-electric driving range, combined mpg and so on.

As it becomes available, data from the program vehicles will be posted to a dedicated Web site. This in-use, readily available data will help consumers understand how the vehicles are being used and how they’pre performing.

Toyota believes this demonstration program is a necessary next step in societal preparation in that it allows Toyota the unique opportunity to inform, educate and prepare customers for the electrification of the automobile in general and the introduction of plug-in hybrid technology.

Beyond lithium”. Toyota is moving quickly with the development of PHV technology well beyond this demonstration program. Advanced battery R&D programs with nickel-metal, lithium-ion and “beyond lithium” are underway for a wide variety of applications in conventional hybrids, PHVs, BEVs and FCHVs.

Solid or metal-air batteries are two examples of “beyond lithium” battery technologies under development. Solid batteries replace the electrolytic solution in lithium-ion batteries with a solid. This solid material allows for high-density packaging and contains no flammable materials. Metal-air batteries capture a reaction between metal solution precipitation and oxygen and provide extremely high energy capacity. The battery research department is also working to develop the Toyota Sakichi battery, a high-density, quick charging and highly durable battery.

BEVs. In his speech, Lentz referenced Toyota’s earlier battery-electric vehicle efforts: the RAV4 EV (with 1,484 of the 100-mile range BEVs sold or leased over the duration of the program) and the e-com demonstrator program.

However, at the time, the market, the consumer and consumer’s environmental mind-set were not ready to buy-in to the whole battery-electric concept. Both programs came and quickly went. But times have changed. And for the better. So much so that, Toyota will bring a lithium-ion battery-electric vehicle to market in model-year, 2012. Last year, Toyota toured the FT-EV concept on the global auto show circuit. This year, the FT-EV2 makes the rounds.

—Jim Lentz

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. In the early 1990s, Toyota began R&D on building a practical and affordable hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. FCHV technical advancements have moved at a rapid pace. Engineers have made great strides in cost reduction targets in both materials and manufacturing and Toyota is committed to bringing hydrogen fuel cells to global markets in 2015.

In December 2002, Toyota began limited testing of fuel cell vehicles in the US and Japan. A total of 20 first generation fuel cell hybrid vehicles (FCHV) are in service in California with universities, corporations and government agencies. Toyota enlisted the University of California, Irvine, University of California, Berkeley and the University of California, Davis to test different aspects of consumer acceptance and market dynamics of fuel cell vehicles. FCHV also are placed with the California Fuel Cell Partnership, a public-private partnership organization to promote the adoption of hydrogen vehicles in California.

Since the FCHV introduction in 2002, Toyota engineers have consistently improved vehicle range, durability and efficiency through improvements in the fuel cell stack and the high-pressure hydrogen storage system, while achieving significant cost reductions in materials and manufacturing. When the FCHV-adv was introduced in 2008, it boasted an estimated range increase of more than 150% over the first generation FCHV. In August 2009,the vehicle achieved an estimated range of 431 miles on a single full tank of compressed hydrogen gas, and an average fuel economy of 68.3 miles/kg (approximate mpg equivalent) during a day-long trip down the southern California coast. (Earlier post.)

The Toyota FCHV-advanced began its own national demonstration program late last year. TMS has now announced that it will expand the project to place more than 100 FCHV-adv vehicles in a nationwide demonstration program over the next three years.

TMS and Toyota Motor Manufacturing and Engineering North America, Inc. will place vehicles with universities, private companies and government agencies in both California and New York. Over the three year course of the demonstration program, as new hydrogen stations come online, additional regions and partners will be added.

Toyota’s demonstration program expansion will provide one of the largest fleets of active fuel cell vehicles in the country with the primary goal of spurring essential hydrogen infrastructure development. The demonstration program also will serve to demonstrate fuel cell technologies reliability and performance prior to its 2015 market introduction.

We plan to come to market in 2015, or earlier, with a vehicle that will be reliable and durable, with exceptional fuel economy and zero emissions, at an affordable price. Toyota will not be alone in the fuel cell marketplace and building an extensive hydrogen re-fueling infrastructure is the critical next step. Hopefully, expansion of demonstration programs like this one will serve as a catalyst.

—Irv Miller, TMS group vice president of environmental and public affairs


Will S

Little wonder that Toyota has leapfrogged the "Big 3". They are constantly moving forward with cars that will be in demand in the future. When they see a problem with resources (oil) or emissions, they put engineers and designers on the task, whereas the "Big 3" call in lawyers and lobbyists...


That about sums it up. In the case of ZEV they did both, GM designed the EV1 AND put lawyers on it.


"However, at the time, the market, the consumer and consumer’s environmental mind-set were not ready to buy-in to the whole battery-electric concept. Both programs came and quickly went."

No, Chevron got control of the patent and sued them to force them to stop making plugin EV's.

"Since the early 90’s, during the early stages of first-generation Prius development, Toyota has been committed to in-house R&D of advanced nickel-metal hydride batteries."

Then why couldn't they figure out how to put a wall plug in the thing at some point during the TWELVE YEARS of the Prius's existence? Why have they just figured this out now that lithium ion batteries are becoming viable? Why is it that NiMH batteries worked perfectly fine over the last 12 years in the Prius, being charged by the regen brakes and gasoline engine, but somehow for some reason these batteries could not be charged by a wall plug? Are the batteries allergic to electricity from the wall?

Oh right, they lost control of the patent to Chevron.


It is highly unlikely that we will ever see a fuel cell powered automobile, or one that uses hydrogen.

We need to put our research money where it will do the most good, soonest.

Right now that means PHEV's with Bio-diesel, Butanol or DME, powering on-board gensets.

Good research should discover the impracticable as well as the practicable.


It is obvisous that Toyota has a plan for future electrified vehicles.

Their post lithium in-house developed batteries are very interesting and could give Toyota an edge for future PHEVs and BEVs.

However, 2015 will come and go for fuel cell small vehicles. However, various size buses and delivery trucks (and trains?) could be better candidates.


Wow the most successful car company officially recognize "peak oil" 10 to 20 years from now, that's is big announcement. OPEC leaders will scratch their head on this one, Exxon Mobil too.



Toyota didn't because they had to keep the battery to a minimal capacity for cost and weight reasons. The usable capacity in the Prius battery is therefore less than 1 kWh. Large part of that capacity is necessary for efficient operation of the hybrid drive. So the net capacity available for PHEV operation is a few hundred Wh, good for an electric range of about 1 km.

Nobody is going through all the hassle of plugging in for 1 km of electric-only operation, let alone pay extra for it.

But they could have put in a bigger battery. That comes with more weight and takes up more space. The space issue would need an engineering solution to the problem of what to do with the spare wheel. The increased weight problem would force Toyota either to save weight elsewhere or to adapt the suspension and other things to cope with the increased weight. The increased weight would have decreased the mileage in HEV mode, while the idea of plugging in is to save fuel.

And then, what would the electric only range have been? 10 km? 15 km? At what cost?

It is easy to think of some conspiracy when things don't go as you like, but the truth is usually there are some pretty good reasons. Imo this is the case for the plug-in Prius.


4 kWh of NiMH would be around 100 pounds and take up around 1 cubic foot of space. Over the last 10 years Toyota could have offered a plug hybrid at an affordable price. Making a large pack with small cells was not the way to go, they needed large format batteries and we all know the story there. Conspiracy is a strong word, but there were several parties involved in controlling the market, so call it what ever you want.


Anne, I did the calculations a while ago and to have a 20 km range it would add $1000 to the price (bigger battery, bigger motor, add a wall plug) and 100 lbs to the weight. Space increase would be minimal. But suddenly they can do it with lithium ion, it's magic, because a 50 lb increase in vehicle weight is acceptable but 100 lb isn't??...???.. I'll post later on the summary of the lawsuit from Cobasys.


Mark just adding the plug would add 500 bucks to a car because of all the safety crap they would have to add to get it past regs and lawyers.

Hell just making the damn safety indicator sticker to show how to bleepin use the plug would cost 500 a car just for lawyers fees and design fees and focus groups and health and safety work groups and and and ....

And then the insurance to cover the first person who tried to recharg the car while in a flood standing on power lines while juggling gasoline drums in full chainmail in the middle of a renasuance fair next to an explosive chemicals factory and daycare center....


Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Apparently it takes only a moderately complex market to be indistinguishable from a conspiracy.



For a 20 km range you would need ~5kWh of battery (you can not use all capacity). That would have cost you $5000, not $1000. Going by the weight of the Prius battery (45 kg for 1.3 kWh) it would add >150 kg, not 45 as you state.

Can you show your calculations? I have problems believing you.

And then there are minor things like having to add a separate electric heater so EV mode is usable in winter too.

And the electronics would need to be upgraded to cope with the power demands of continuous electric only driving at higher speeds.

And then all has to be tested and re-tested and tested again, so they don't have to be recalled due to some unforeseen problem. A company with the reputation of Toyota can not afford mistakes. Especially not with a high profile vehicle like the Prius.

Wes Taylor

Panasonic leads in the nickel metal hydride battery chemistry/technology, however, there are limitations to NiMh besides weight. The issues concerning cycling, memory effect, and temperature when charging and discharging have to be addressed also.


Worldwide R & D on future lithium and post-lithium batteries will come up with higher performance (2x to 5x) units by 2015.

Worldwide mass production of improved lithium and post-lithium batteries and aggressive competition will lower the price from current $500 to $1000/Kwh to around $100 to $200/Kwh by 2020.

Meanwhile, the world will have to do with more efficent ICE vehicles, third and fourth generation HEVs, first and second generation PHEVs and limited range BEVs.

After 2020, ICE and HEVs will be progressively phased out or replaced with PHEVs and short-long range BEVs with modular batteries. The wild card will be improved fuel cells, specially for heavy vehicles such a buses, long haul trucks, locomotives, ships etc. It would be rather easy to upgrade current diesel-electric locomotives (and ships) to fuel cell-electric units.


@Mark BC and Anne,
No, NiMH batteries are not practical for EREV or BEV because the Deep Depth-of-Discharge cycle life is not good enough. NiMH can only do something like 500 to 700 deep cycles. If you charge and discharge once a day for commuting to work, then the battery would only last a few years. I have listed nine Li Ion battery companies that can support 3,000 deep cycles and still have most of their battery capacity working. Several can do twice this.
Toyota has not moved on to Lithium Batteries more rapidly because they got behind the curve on development of a Lithium battery AND because they are already making money on the HEV Prius. Why out compete themselves?


“Worldwide mass production of improved lithium and post-lithium batteries and aggressive competition will lower the price from current $500 to $1000/Kwh to around $100 to $200/Kwh by 2020.”

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