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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Toyota Electric






Bill Reinert, the head of Toyota's advanced powertrain research, stated that his company does not forsee the electric vehicle becoming the standard in the industry in the short-term future.

The man who spearheaded the successful Prius project believes that the market for electric vehicles in the United States is not large enough to justify a major developmental project for electric vehicles, or a transformation within the company towards electric production. He says that the current ranges - around 100 miles - promised by automakers such as Nissan and Ford are unrealistic and do not take into account highway driving, traffic conditions, or air conditioners and heaters draining the battery.

The impracticability of electric vehicles is, he believes, the key reason why Toyota is not actively pursuing them. According to Reinert, "A car that has a 100 mile range and needs to be recharged for eight hours after that, that's not flexible enough for the modern family."

A spokesman for Nissan disagreed, stating that Reinert and Toyota were making such claims because they were biased towards hybrids. The Toyota Prius is the leading hybrid in the market, but Reinert claims that hybrids demonstrate why electric vehicles are not currently feasible for mass production.

""We've had the Prius on sale for 10 years now," says Reinert, "and it asks nothing of the customer."

Even though the Prius is simple to operate and drive, hybrids only make up less than 2% of the American passenger vehicle market. Presumably, electric vehicles that require frequent recharging, battery swapping, and other routine maintenance concerns specific to electric vehicles would make these cars even less attractive.

Reinert did praise General Motors for giving the Chevrolet Volt a 4-cylinder engine that runs on gas in addition to its primary electric powertrain, stating that the company is heading "in the right direction" with the move.

Toyota is developing a fleet of plug-in electric FT-EV II short-range cars that are due out in 2012 for rental, presumably for urban driving, but are not for sale.

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