Toyota's Global Vision 2020 and Earth Charter challenge Toyota to pursue all possible environmental technologies and growth that is in harmony with the environment. To this end, Toyota is searching for energy sources that can replace fossil fuels while continually striving to reduce existing fuel consumption.
Toyota believes that a variety of alternative energy sources will be required for future mobility, from natural gas to low carbon biofuels to electricity to hydrogen. Most of these technologies require additional research and development and/or infrastructure investments to become feasible for the mass market. But today, a promising and readily available alternative energy source is electricity. Depending on how the electricity is produced, using electricity instead of gasoline can provide significant reductions in CO2 and smog forming emissions.
With close to two decades of battery research and development experience, Toyota has established itself as the global leader in advanced hybrid technology. The journey began in the late eighties with the development of hybrid synergy drive, powered by nickel-metal hydride batteries.
With regard to electric drive vehicle batteries, Toyota believes that smaller is better, both from a total lifecycle assessment (carbon footprint) perspective, as well as a cost perspective. Research has shown that plug-in hybrid vehicles with smaller batteries, charged frequently (every 20 miles or less), and using average U.S. electricity, produce less greenhouse gas emissions than conventional hybrid vehicles.* And as battery size increases, so does the battery cost, resulting in higher overall vehicle cost.
Electric drive vehicles will play an important role in the future of transportation, but that role will be very specific. The benefits of EVs and PHVs are maximized in specific driving conditions – shorter, around-town urban trips at low speeds. For many customers, this type of use is ideal for the majority of their driving needs. For others, with long daily commutes or different vehicle needs, conventional hybrid technology may be a better fit. This is why Toyota is working on not one advanced technology vehicle for the future, but many.
*Shiau,Ching-Shin Norman et. al. 2009. "Impact of battery weight and charging patterns on the economic and environmental benefits of plug-in hybrid vehicles." Energy Policy
Batteries - Moving Forward
Toyota continues to improve both NiMH and Li-ion battery technologies for vehicle applications. Toyota's joint-venture partnership with Panasonic has been a key element in the successful advancement of hybrid technology. Later this year, Panasonic EV Energy (PEVE) will have three separate, fully operational production facilities with a combined capacity of more than one million units per year. This expansion will support Toyota's goal of offering a hybrid option for all passenger vehicles by the early 2020s. For lithium-ion batteries, cost reductions and technological efficiency improvements for mass production are a key focus.
As battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles come to market in 2012, success will hinge on their value proposition: meeting or exceeding customer expectations by finding the perfect balance between cost and performance.