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Toyota: Threat or Menace?

Discussion in 'Cars and Transportation' started by tonybelding, Nov 5, 2007.

  1. tonybelding

    tonybelding Active Member

    Aug 17, 2006
    Hamilton, Texas
    It's amazing to me how quickly Toyota has changed from the environmental movement's poster boy to their whipping boy.

    I got a long, rambling email today from CalCars in which they lambasted Toyota.

    My first idea was to summarize and pick out the main points, but I don't think I could do it justice. So, here's the whole thing. . . .


    Toyota's new full-page newspaper ads show an open road, green fields,
    an enormous blue sky, and the headline "WHY NOT?" followed by the poetic:

    "Two words that are filled with possibilities
    They can turn a challenge into an opportunity
    An obstacle into an inspiration.

    It's a question we ask ourselves at Toyota every day.
    Because we're continuously looking for new ways to improve
    what we do. By asking tough questions.

    Can we make a car that has zero emissions?
    Can we improve the economy of a community?
    Can we enrich the lives of people around us?

    Why not?"

    And a link to -- where the repositioning campaign is found.

    Meanwhile, in the race to bring PHEVs to market, Toyota is
    disagreeing with elected officials, climate crisis and other
    environmental advocates and companies that suggest we start today
    with good enough solutions as the best way to move forward. Here are
    reports on how three journalists have responded to all the new
    obstacles Toyota has raised to PHEVs.

    Only a few months ago, Toyota was sounding positive about PHEVs (see ). Now the company is turning
    almost 180 degrees (ironic, since the PHEV's reverse gear is
    all-electric!) Its responses increasingly communicate "not now...not
    possible...give us credit for building the us." (Its
    new TV ad, visible at the whynot URL shows a Prius effectively built
    of biodegradable twigs.) And it's also saying, "by the way, forget
    about our support of auto industry efforts to defeat higher CAFE
    standards and California's law requiring lower-CO2 cars; ignore our
    immensely profitable Tundra truck and don't look too carefully at our
    Lexus muscle hybrids" (the latest of which, the 2MPG-better 600h at
    $100K, was labelled aggressively as a greenwasher in the Wall Street
    Journal )

    The campaign for PHEVs has clearly affected the company. It has
    responded by putting a primitive PHEVs on the road -- with one-half
    to one-third the range of after-market conversions. (Though even
    these dozen prototypes, by confirming that Toyota can switch EV-only
    mode up to 62MPH, get people even more excited about PHEVs and more
    convinced Toyota could build better PHEVs anytime it wants to.) Its
    new strategy is to criticize the shortcomings of its own car and
    emphasize the impediments to building anything better.

    For some time,Toyota has publicly and privately asked the California
    Air Resources Board to change its requirement for more hydrogen fuel
    cells cars. Its senior executives say the company is focusing its
    development resources on hybrids. Surprisingly, at the same time,
    Toyota has now begun to publicly link PHEVs with the remnant of its
    fuel cell program. This gives journalists the message that both are
    equally worthy of attention -- and both are far from practical today.
    In its Japanese demonstrations of the PHEV Prius, it put both cars on
    the same track for test drives.

    Some journalists caught on to the game, like Martin Zimmerman from
    the LA Times, who after saying that PHEVs "may have a lot to say
    about how we get around in the future," looked at fuel cell cars and
    saw "a sticker price of about $1 million. Maybe, as some critics like
    to say, hydrogen is the fuel of the future and always will be. But
    for a few brief minutes in the shadow of Fujisan, the future felt
    awfully close at hand.",1,7206635.story

    Dennis Normile from The New York Times reflected many of Toyota's
    perspective in two articles on the Japanese demos. In "Fuel Cell
    Hurdle: Only the Price Tag," (which appeared online only Nov. 4 at ), he
    eagerly reports,

    "We've got the systems engineering solved," Mr. Hirose, general
    manager for fuel cell system engineering and development at Toyota,
    said. "This is close to a commercial vehicle." A brief test drive of
    this hydrogen-fueled Highlander at the company's Higashi-Fuji
    Technical Center near Mount Fuji gave the impression that the goal of
    delivering a showroom-ready model is indeed tantalizingly close.

    The reporter loves the smooth, quiet (all-electric!) ride, then concludes:
    Some challenges remain. Taiyo Kawai, also a Toyota fuel cell
    engineer, explained that fuel cell durability and power density
    needed to be improved. But the toughest nut to crack will be cost of
    a fuel cell vehicle, which they say must drop a hundredfold to be
    commercially viable. Mr. Kawai said that could be achieved by
    improving production efficiency and reducing the use of expensive
    materials like platinum.
    Then there is the issue of building a hydrogen supply infrastructure,
    something Mr. Hirose says will require "society-level decisions."
    Toyota officials are confident that mass commercialization of fuel
    cell vehicles will occur sometime after 2030.

    OUR COMMENT: Why would Toyota bother to show a car it won't
    mass-produce for 20 years?

    In the other report, in the Sunday print edition worldwide and at , "As
    Hybrids Evolve, Gains Grow Elusive,' the same Dennis Normile swallows
    the idea that benefits are uncertain and cites a list of obstacles
    without evaluating them. We intersperse our comments:

    And even when new twists in technology do arrive -- developments that
    include plug-in hybrids, which can be recharged on household current
    to give them more driving distance on batteries alone -- it may be
    impossible to give buyers a measure of how much the advances help
    because there is no test to measure their mileage.

    A recent drive in Japan of a prototype Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid
    demonstrated both Toyota's progress in developing vehicles that make
    more use of their electric drive systems and the challenges in
    bringing them to market.

    By putting its considerable engineering and marketing muscle into
    making the Prius the best-selling hybrid car, Toyota established a
    reputation as a green leader among automakers. But that image has
    been questioned by environmental groups that assail Toyota's push
    into big trucks, its stance on proposed United States fuel economy
    standards and its participation in a lawsuit challenging California's
    right to limit carbon dioxide emissions.

    Reasserting its position as the biggest seller of hybrids just before
    the Tokyo auto show opened last month, Toyota let journalists drive
    what is likely to be its next step toward what it calls sustainable
    mobility -- a plug-in hybrid based on the current Prius that would be
    more miserly with fuel and would reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

    But don't hurry down to your nearest Toyota dealer. Before the car
    reaches showrooms it faces some tough road tests, and even when it
    does arrive, it probably will not replace existing hybrid designs entirely.
    Toyota said that better batteries are needed to extend the car's
    electric-mode range -- and even the most promising prospects may not
    be good enough.

    "Some of our engineers think we must go beyond lithium-ion," said
    Katsuaki Watanabe, president of the Toyota Motor Corporation,
    referring to what is now the leading battery technology for electric vehicles.

    OUR COMMENT: Anyone tracking developments among battery companies and
    other automakers will be astounded by this upping the ante. The
    source is Pres. Watanabe, but he keeps some space between "some
    engineers" and his own views. Is Toyota really now promoting the idea
    that no type of lithium-based battery is practical? Or perhaps the
    journalist misunderstood and Pres. Watanabe means Toyota engineers
    want the company to "go beyond" the lithium-cobalt batteries
    available to it through its Panasonic joint venture, which have far
    more significant safety issues than nanophosphate lithium and other
    batteries already on the market in small quantities.

    === continued next message ===
  2. tonybelding

    tonybelding Active Member

    Aug 17, 2006
    Hamilton, Texas
    continuation. . .

    The report continues:
    Toyota and the Environmental Protection Agency are mulling over how
    to describe the advantages of adding plug-in capability to a hybrid.
    The current test, which gives the Prius an E.P.A. estimated mileage
    of 55 m.p.g. for combined city and highway driving, does not work.
    Toyota estimates that for a daily commute of 15.5 miles, running
    costs of this prototype will be about 8 percent lower than the
    current Prius if the battery is charged during the day, and 41
    percent cheaper if charged at off-peak rates where time-of-day
    electricity pricing is available.

    OUR COMMENT: Toyota is saying electrical driving costs will be
    negligible unless off-peak rates are available. This sends the
    message: "(like fuel cells) the infrastructure isn't ready." (Watch
    how many states introduce time-of-use pricing in the coming
    years.) And it's correctly saying that regulators will have to
    figure out baseline measures of emissions and cost savings for cars
    that assuredly have major benefits. (A great challenge to face, which
    government agencies and the Society of Automotive Engineers are
    happily working on!)

    By the way, Toyota's 8% number doesn't add up. For Toyota's 15.5
    miles round-trip, half could be all-electric with Toyota's small
    battery range. Let's assume cheap (these days) $2.50 gasoline, 260
    Watt-hours for electric miles on the Prius and US average electrical
    price of 9.67 cents
    Standard 55MPG Prius, 7.75 miles = 0.14 gallons or $0.35
    All-electric: 7.75 miles =2 kiloWatts = $0.20
    Electric miles 42% cheaper at daytime rates; entire 15.5 mile
    range 21% cheaper.

    The company did the journalist and his readers a disservice by not
    reminding him to use the new EPA combined figure for the Prius:
    46MPG Prius, 7.75 miles = 0.17 gallons or $0.42 of $2.50/gallon gasoline
    All-electric: 7.75 miles =2 kiloWatts = $0.20
    Electric miles 52% cheaper at daytime rates; entire 15.5 mile
    range 26% cheaper.

    The report continues:
    Cuts in carbon dioxide emissions depend on the source of the
    electrical power. Toyota calculates that in the United States, with
    its dependence on coal, the plug-in hybrid would cut carbon emissions
    4 percent compared with a conventional Prius; in France, where more
    nuclear plants generate electricity, the reduction would be 34 percent.

    OUR COMMENT: We urge Toyota to release its assumptions, which are
    significantly lower than those of many reports, including the
    widely-recognized recent study by EPRI-NRDC study (see CalCars-News).
    And it's curious for a company that asks "why not," to be entirely
    backward-looking, focusing on yesterday's battery technology and on
    the emissions profile of a power grid that was built when no one was
    thinking about CO2 and will inevitably get cleaner.

    The article concludes:
    All those calculations are based on nickel-metal hydride batteries;
    going to lithium-ion batteries with greater power storage capacity
    would increase the benefits. Toyota, like other companies, is working
    on that technology but is cautious about saying when it will be
    ready. The goal is to make the combined battery pack and charger
    about the size and weight of the current Prius battery, but twice as powerful.

    Among other benefits, this would mean Toyota could introduce a
    plug-in Prius without a major model change. But, Mr. Asakura said,
    the lithium-ion batteries have a long way to go to achieve that
    performance with acceptable safety, reliability and longevity.


    A most important question these days is what will fuel the hundreds
    of millions of new cars that are built in developing nations. (See
    columnist Thomas Friedman's "No, No, Don't Follow Us" about Tata's
    planned $2,500 car for
    India .)
    Friedman, a supporter of PHEVs, here rightly focuses on the need to
    vastly expand mass transit rather than four-wheeled vehicles.

    What does Toyota say? In the Reuters report that follows in its
    entirety, managing officer Tatehito Ueda says "China is not the place
    for electric cars" because they will run on coal. He doesn't take the
    next step in that reasoning to look at the future. As the world's car
    fleet increases rapidly and as global petroleum supplies are
    increasingly stretched, China and India will turn to gasoline made
    from their domestic coal ("coal-to-liquid)." CTL is among the
    technologies lumped together as "clean coal" by its advocates. It's
    called "perpetual pollution" by the Montana Environmental Information
    Center. CTL will be 2-3x higher in CO2 than coal used for electric
    cars. Toyota presumes that nothing changes -- that China doesn't
    begin to shift away from coal toward renewables (which it must if the
    world is to survive), while assuming that large scale carbon capture
    and sequestration is unavailable (which we agree is a realistic assumption).

    In this Reuters article we're surprised to find additional impediments:

    * Some people won't have plugs, so Toyota will have to build two
    kinds of hybrids--those that plug in and those that don't (what a burden!)
    * The journalist has been told PHEVs are "based on fuel cell
    technology" -- from which he concludes that it shares the fuel cell's
    "always 20 years away" status.
    * Plug-in owners might get tired of plugging in. They would forget
    about the cost and environmental benefits and someday feel too
    overburdened or impatient to spend 10 seconds on the way out of the
    garage at night connecting the car to an extension cord and
    unplugging it in the morning. Clearly this calls for years of study.
    (As for cellphone owners...)
    * Toyota teases us with a great lightweight PHEV: the 1/X. But it's
    only a concept....sending the message Toyota would rather wait not
    just for perfect batteries but for fully optimized carbon-fiber vehicles.

    China is no place for electric cars:Toyota
    Mon Oct 22, 2007 4:23am EDT

    TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese carmaker Toyota is working to improve its
    hybrid cars and develop electric cars for the future, but an official
    said on Monday that these vehicles would not help reduce CO2
    emissions in China.

    "In France, 80 percent of electricity is produced by nuclear stations
    so if electric cars replace fossil fuel cars then you have a clear
    reduction in the emission of CO2," said at Toyota Motor Corp.

    "But in China they make electricity by burning coal, so China is not
    the place for electric cars," he told the Nikkei International
    Automotive Conference in Tokyo.

    Toyota has introduced a so-called 'plug-in' hybrid vehicle -- in
    which the electric part of the engine can be charged up from the
    electricity network -- in France in partnership with EDF and will
    introduce this elsewhere as well.

    The vehicle is based on its Fuel Cell stack technology, but Ueda said
    a lot of issues needed to be resolved to make this a mass technology,
    both in infrastructure and in vehicles.

    In the meantime, improved fuel economy through reduced running
    resistance, or friction, and an improved power train can cut
    emissions. Software can help make mechanical actions more precise and
    reduce fuel consumption, he said.

    At the Tokyo Motor Show, Toyota introduced another possible approach
    in its 1/X concept vehicle. Rather than increase battery capacity,
    the 1/X relies on cutting vehicle weight with a
    carbon-fiber-reinforced body that weighs 925 pounds, or about
    one-third that of the current Prius. It is also a plug-in hybrid that
    can run on a mixture of gasoline and ethanol.

    The problems of changing to a plug-in fleet are not all technical.
    Anyone without regular access to an outlet -- that would include most
    apartment dwellers -- would be better off with a conventional Prius
    rather than a plug-in because the plug-in's larger and heavier
    battery pack would cut mileage. Automakers would need to make both
    plug-in and no-plug models.

    Toyota is also concerned that plug-in owners might tire of connecting
    their cars every day. Some answers on consumer expectations and daily
    performance should come out of evaluations of the prototypes to be
    conducted at the Irvine and Berkeley campuses of the University of
    California that will begin later this month.

    The uncertainties mean Toyota officials simply won't be pinned down
    as to when a plug-in hybrid will hit the market. When pressed, all
    Mr. Asakura would say is: "As quickly as possible."

    -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
    Felix Kramer [email protected]
    Founder California Cars Initiative
    mobile to July 16: 42 36 63 18 59 27
    -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
  3. vfx

    vfx Well-Known Member

    Aug 18, 2006
    CA CA
  4. juk

    juk Member

    Nov 5, 2007
    Menace. Not only because they hinder the common application of electric cars with all sorts of BS designed to create complex vehicles, but because all their cars are beige. The world needs less beige, not more.
  5. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

    Aug 20, 2006
    It is sad how much we have been drawn into talking about hybrids lately.

    This forum is about electric vehicles, yet so much press is going towards hybrids lately that we find ourself drawn into that realm.

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