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