TOYOTA CITY, Japan ― Hybrid or not, eco-friendly cars are meaningless unless they are readily available and affordable. That is why Toyota will launch as many as 18 hybrid models up until the end of 2015.
The carmaker has already unveiled the luxury sedan Crown Majesta hybrid lineup and is ready to unleash 17 more ― including complete model changes and existing Toyota cars whose engines will be replaced with hybrid versions.
Further, at the upcoming Tokyo Motor Show in November, Toyota will be showcasing a concept car powered by fuel cells.
|Toyota’s Crown Majesta hybrid|
“It’s our goal and mission to produce and provide environmentally healthy cars for the future,” said Hisashi Nakai, projector manager of the global strategic planning department.
Since 1997, Toyota has sold 5 million hybrids, among which 3 million were the Prius model. Last year alone, Toyota sold 1.2 million hybrid cars.
“Electric vehicles depend on batteries, but unfortunately, battery technology is still not (advanced) enough to ensure sufficient driving distances. Consumers also have to drive in constant fear that their cars may stop on the road,” Nakai said, adding that this was preventing electric cars from becoming completely mainstream.
When fully charged ― which usually takes about an hour ― electric cars can cover up to 100 kilometers.
Hybrids, on the other hand, are capable of covering approximately 20 kilometers on electricity before automatically switching to engine mode when the battery runs out.
Nakai said in Japan, drivers cover a daily distance 20 kilometers on average.
Fuel efficiency remains high ― usually over 30 kilometers per liter ― thanks to the powerful hybrid engine, and because the battery is recharged whenever the engine becomes idle.
Another reason Toyota is betting so big on hybrids is that theoretically, they can be easily converted into electric vehicles as soon as they run out of fuel.
Cars running on fuel cells are another eco-friendly solution that Toyota is developing.
The biggest upside to fuel-cell cars is it takes only a few minutes to fill them up, after which they can cover almost 500 kilometers. These vehicles also emit no CO2 at all.
However, the technology is still extremely costly and carmakers including Toyota have yet to perfect it. Germany’s Linde Group provides the hydrogen stations to Toyota.
Working with other companies is an option Toyota is actively exploring, Nakai stressed, saying it needs partners to achieve its goals.
Currently, the carmaker works with a number of top manufacturers including BMW and Tesla Motors.
By Kim Ji-hyun, Korea Herald correspondent