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Toyota Adds 2nd Battery-Electric Vehicle

But Scion iQ EV will skip retail, target car-sharing programs.

by on Oct.17, 2012

Toyota has modest plans for its small battery-car.

Toyota is adding a second battery-electric vehicle to its U.S. line-up, a lithium-ion-powered version of its Scion iQ microcar. But plans for the new green machine underscore the Japanese giant’s continued skepticism about the near to mid-term potential of battery-electric propulsion.

As with the Toyota RAV4-EV introduced earlier this year, the Scion iQ will be produced in relatively low numbers – and it will be targeted at campus and urban car-sharing programs rather than being sold directly to consumers, the maker reveals.

Just 90 of the electric microcars will be delivered to the U.S. initially. Toyota plans to reveal further details of who will get the iQ, and where, in the coming weeks.

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“Toyota believes battery-electric vehicles have the potential to play a role in future mobility strategies,” says Chris Hostetter, TMS group vice president of strategic planning. “Up to now, cost and convenience issues have limited BEV’s appeal with a broad consumer market. Toyota developed the iQ EV specifically as a city commuter, for use in an urban environment, where driving distances are likely to be short, charging opportunities numerous, and its compact proportions beneficial.”


Toyota Among Makers Charging Pike’s Peak Climb with Battery Power

Will battery cars stand up to the challenge?

by on Jun.08, 2012

Japanese champion Nobuhiro “Monster” Tajima will be back at Pike's Peak but this time driving this Batmobile-like custom battery car.

It’s one of the world’s most challenging motorsports event, a climb to the 14,000-foot summit of Pike’s Peak.  And this year, a number of automaker’s will make the run in a way reflecting the otherwise pristine environment in the Colorado Rockies.

Toyota will be one of a number of manufacturers taking on the annual Pike’s Peak Hill Climb, on July 8th, using electric propulsion.  Also on tap will be at least two versions of the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, one stock and one heavily modified.

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But perhaps one of the most threatening products to challenge the Peak next month will be custom-made electric vehicle under development by Japan’s Nobuhiro “Monster” Tajima that looks like it had drifted off the set of the next Batman movie.


New RAV4-EV Shows Toyota No Longer Willing to Go it Alone

Japanese giant increasingly dependent upon alliances.

by on May.07, 2012

Toyota will build the RAV4 EV on the same Ontario assembly line producing the conventional version of the crossover.

Toyota today launched its all-new battery-electric vehicle, the RAV4-EV, at the annual International Electric Vehicle Symposium, in Los Angeles.  Based on the maker’s conventionally powered compact ute, the vehicle is intended to test the U.S. market’s interest in electric propulsion.

But it will also be a test of the budding relationship between the Japanese giant and the small California start-up Tesla Motors.  The guts of the RAV4-EV, its lithium-ion driveline, will come from Tesla, a company in which Toyota has so far invested more than $50 million and dangled millions more in contracts like the new electric vehicle.

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More broadly, it’s a test of a significant shift in strategy by the Japanese maker.  For most of its existence, the company – currently the world’s fourth-largest automaker – steadfastly did things on its own.  While other manufacturers frequently partnered with erstwhile rivals to fill gaps in their product and powertrain line-ups, Toyota reached into its vast treasury to fund its own programs or worked with a very small and select group of suppliers – known as a keiretsu — in which it usually held a significant financial stake.

No longer.  Toyota is rapidly lining up an assortment of alliances with not only some of the world’s most prestigious auto manufacturers but also some of its fiercest competitors.

“No one can handle it all by themselves,” acknowledged Yoshi Inaba, president and COO of Toyota Motor North America.


Toyota Prius Plug-in Model to Get Selectable EV Mode

Japanese maker taking steps to enhance new model’s relatively limited range.

by on Jun.16, 2011

The Toyota Prius Plug-in makes its official debut at the Detroit Auto Show earlier this year.

When Toyota brings the 2012 Prius Plug-in Hybrid to market next year, the vehicle will include several features designed to get the maximum mileage on battery power, including a switch that will let the driver decide when to run in electric vehicle mode and when to operate as a more conventional hybrid.

The maker hopes that will help overcome the limitations of a small lithium-ion battery pack that is expected to deliver only about 13 miles in EV mode, or just over a third of the zero-emissions range of the Chevrolet Volt plug-in that came to market last December.

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Industry analysts have raised questions about the benefits of a plug-in with only 13 miles range, though Toyota Vice President Bob Carter has defended the decision, insisting that is enough for many motorists,  especially since the Japanese maker hints it will price the Prius Plug-in well below the roughly $40,000 –before federal tax credits – Chevy gets for its battery car.  That hefty premium over a similarly-sized Chevrolet Cruze has also drawn criticism and led the General Motors division to lower its price tag by more than $1,000 on the 2012 Volt.


First Drive: Toyota RAV4-EV

Toyota plugs in with first battery-electric vehicle.

by on Apr.11, 2011

A first drive in a Toyota RAV4-EV prototype.

The all-electric RAV4 isn’t officially due to plug into the U.S. market until the 2012 calendar-year but recently Toyota gave us a chance to take a spin in one of the 31 prototypes built by its partner, the California-based battery car start-up, Tesla Motors.

Toyota was the first automaker to produce a hybrid-electric vehicle – though rival Honda beat it to the U.S. market by several months.  Until recently, Toyota dismissed more advanced plug-ins and pure battery-electric vehicles, so the decision to launch the RAV4-EV was a significant shift in strategy.  So was the decision to turn to Tesla.

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While alliances have become the norm in the automotive world, Toyota has traditionally preferred going it alone, so the RAV4-EV will be a significant addition to the Japanese giant’s line-up in a variety of ways.

We headed to Southern California for our first drive, where Toyota had one of the battery cars fully charged and ready to go, to get a sense of what we can expect when the maker’s first pure electric vehicle comes to market in little more than a year.


Toyota, Microsoft Launch New Partnership

Targeting software to improve efficiency of electric vehicles.

by on Apr.06, 2011

The Toyota RAV4-EV will likely be one of the first models to benefit from the maker's new partnership with software giant Microsoft.

Toyota and Microsoft have announced a new partnership, the automotive and software giants planning to develop new technology they believe can improve the efficiency of battery-powered automobiles.

Squeezing the maximum mileage out of an electric vehicle – while minimizing the impact on performance and comfort could make the difference between a successful product and an also-ran, industry officials contend.

“This new partnership between Microsoft and Toyota is an important step in developing greater future mobility and energy management for consumers around the world. Creating these more efficient, more environmentally advanced products will be our contribution to society,” said Toyota President Akio Toyoda, during a news conference simultaneously held in Toyota City, Japan, and Redmond, Washinton.

“To achieve this,” added Toyoda, “it is important to develop a new link between vehicles, people and smart center energy-management systems.”

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The partners revealed plans to invest 1 billion yen, or $11.7 million, to develop a new telematics system based on the Windows Azure mobile operating platform.  They suggested that the technology could have numerous applications, ranging from improved navigation to in-car information services – as well as improving the energy management in a battery-based vehicle.


First Look: Toyota Yaris HSD Concept

Japanese giant downsizes battery power.

by on Feb.28, 2011

Toyota will unveil the Yaris HSD Concept in Geneva.

Toyota officials have often suggested that they’d like to make their Hybrid Synergy Drive system available as an option on just about every product in their line-up.  They underscored that commitment at last month’s Detroit Auto Show, and even more battery news will be coming at this week’s Geneva Motor Show.

Making its world debut at the PALExpo conference center, the Yaris HSD Concept shows it’s possible to put a version of Toyota’s hybrid technology in one of the maker’s smallest models – which happens to compete in one of the biggest market niches in Europe.

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Specific details are being held for the Toyota news conference but sources say that the Yaris HSD Concept is just a thinly-disguised version of the production car we’ll be seeing in European showrooms in the very near future.

Toyota will have a variety of Synergy Drive-powered offerings on display, including the Prius+, the first model to compete in the 7-passenger multi-purpose vehicle, or MPV segment.


Toyota To Debut iQ EV Concept in Geneva

Maker hopes to regain lead in green space.

by on Feb.15, 2011

Toyota plans to put the iQ EV into production in 2012.

Slow to embrace battery-electric vehicles, Toyota is struggling to make up for lost time, and will introduce another electric car concept at the upcoming Geneva Motor Show.

The iQ EV prototype is a lithium-ion-powered version of the little iQ microcar – a conventionally-fueled version of which will soon makes its way to the States wearing a Scion badge.  The four-seater is only slightly larger than the current Smart fortwo.

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The battery concept will deliver about 65 miles per charge, according to Toyota, using a new flat battery pack that is distinctly different from the cylindrical, laptop computer-style lithium-ion batteries that will be used in the RAV4 EV.  That battery-electric crossover, developed in cooperation with the Silicon Valley start-up, Tesla Motors, is due to market in 2012.


Toyota Adding More Hybrids, Battery Cars – And Free Maintenance Plan – To Boost U.S. Sales

Japanese maker’s CEO meanwhile rallies American dealers.

by on Oct.07, 2010

The new Toyota Sienna -- and the rest of the 2011 Toyota and Scion line-up -- will now get free maintenance.

With U.S. sales in a slump despite the use of some of the largest cash incentives in its history, Toyota Motor Co. is taking a two-pronged approach to rebuilding momentum.

From Japan, the company has announced plans to add a number of new hybrids, plug-ins and battery-electric vehicles, or BEVs.  In Las Vegas, meanwhile, Toyota President and CEO Akio Toyoda is rallying the troops, telling 1,200 of its U.S. dealers that the automaker is committed to reversing the damage done by a year-long safety scandal.

Among other steps to boost demand, the maker has also announced it will offer American buyers a new, two-year, 25,000-mile free maintenance plan on all Toyota and Scion-branded products.

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Though it remains the largest automaker in the world, Toyota clearly is worried about the impact of a safety crisis that began almost exactly one year ago when it announced the first recall for so-called sudden acceleration.  Since then, more than 9 million vehicles have been recalled worldwide, the majority in the U.S.  And while the lion’s share are impacted by the sudden acceleration issue, the maker has faced an array of other problems, from excess corrosion on minivans to leaking hybrid fuel tanks.


Toyota Links Battery Cars, Home With Smart Center

System to improve charging, reduce energy usage.

by on Oct.07, 2010

When the Prius plug-in comes to market, in 2012, Japanese buyers will be able to link it to the home.

Toyota is releasing a new system, dubbed Smart Center, that is says will reduce energy usage at home while making it easier to charge one of the maker’s upcoming battery-electric vehicles.

Smart Center, one of the first so-called “smart grid” systems, could cut energy consumption in a home by as much as 75%, the maker claims.

The technology will be available in Japan, where Toyota is already in the housing business.  It is unclear whether it will make the Smart Center available in the U.S. or other parts of the world, but there are a number of other companies, including software giant Microsoft, that are coming up with similar technologies that let consumers see where energy is going in their homes and offer a way to reduce usage.

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The timing of the Toyota Smart Center launch isn’t random.  It debuts just as the maker gets ready to bring its first plug-in electric vehicle to market.  A version of the Toyota Prius, it is already in fleet testing around the world and will make a retail debut in 2012.