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Toyota Plans Major Boost in Lithium Battery Output

Major shift from older tech suggests more emphasis on plug-ins, BEVs.

by on May.20, 2013

Toyota will expand production of lithium-ion batteries. Expect them to show up in the next-gen Prius and possibly other Toyota products.

Toyota is planning a major increase in production of advanced lithium-ion batteries that could be used in its Prius hybrid and perhaps in other plug-ins or battery-electric vehicles, according to reports from Japan.

The six-fold increase in production of LIon batteries comes as a major shift for the maker which had, until recently, focused exclusively on less powerful but cheaper and more time-tested nickel-metal hydride technology.

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The report by Japan’s Nikkei daily business paper says Toyota and battery partner Panasonic will soon be assembling 200,000 lithium-ion batteries annually, largely for use in the popular Prius model. It is unclear if they will be used in just the conventional hybrid version or may also be used for the new Prius plug-in model.

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Toyota Looking at New Supra – But Will it Be Electric?

MR2 Successor also reportedly in the works.

by on Nov.12, 2012

Toyota's FT-86 Concept II could serve as the platform for the long-lamented Supra. But might Toyota turn to Tesla to help develop a battery drivetrain?.

“Passion” is a word one hears a lot in conversations with Toyota executives these days, up to and including President Akio Toyoda, who points to recent introductions like the Scion FR-S and Lexus GS to underscore his intentions.

But it’s beginning to look like that’s just the beginning of Toyota’s performance aspirations, with new reports suggesting there could be at least a couple more performance machines on the Japanese giant’s horizons – notably in the form of all-new versions of the long-lamented Supra and MR-2 models.

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But, as the new FR-S demonstrates, Toyota may take a very different approach in bringing those – or other – performance models back to life. One very strong possibility is that it could turn outside for help, perhaps to the likes of California-based Tesla Motors to provide a battery-based drivetrain for a new Supra.

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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.”

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Are Battery Car Sales Charging Up?

Chevy Volt to set a record in August

by on Aug.30, 2012

Chevrolet Volt sales are gaining momentum -- apparently driven by the 2013 model's ability to get an HOV-lane sticker in California.

With the second anniversary of the launch of two critical battery-electric vehicles fast approaching, many observers have been questioning whether the public has been turned off to the costly technology.  There’s no question that the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf got off to a slow start.  And, when you add in less advanced battery technology, namely gas-electric hybrids, demand has clearly slowed since fuel prices hit their April peak.

Yet, despite recent, largely negative headlines highlighting plant shutdowns, recalls and other setbacks, there are signs that battery car sales may be charging up, after all.

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Perhaps the biggest sign of a turnaround has come from Chevrolet which is reporting that it expects sales of the Volt to top 2,500 by the time it closes the books on August.  That would be a tripling of sales compared to year-earlier levels – and a 10% jump from Volt’s previous record, the 2,289 sold in March of this year.

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Ford Amps Up Investment in Electric Vehicles

Maker targets more battery vehicles at a lower cost.

by on Aug.16, 2012

Ford plans to rapidly increase the number of battery vehicles in its line-up and boost production capacity while also driving down costs.

Ford Motor Co., despite the feeble growth of sales of hybrids and electric vehicles, has no intention of backing off its ambitious plans to build more electric vehicles.  Instead, the automaker has announced plans to invest another $135 million to design, engineer and test future battery-based vehicles.

Joe Bakaj, Ford vice president of powertrain engineering, said the investment will include hiring more engineers to work on electric vehicle projects alongside the 1,000 experts it already has working on EV projects at its engineering campus in Dearborn at what the company is now calling the Advanced Electrification Center. Ford continues to build its electrified team having hired 60 engineers in the past year with plans to fill more positions in the next few months.

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While the price of gasoline continues to fluctuate, the long-term trend in fuel prices is upwards and consumers around the world are demanding greater fuel efficiency, Bakaj said. “Sixty percent of our customers say they would consider a hybrid if the price was equal to a vehicle with an internal combustion engine,” he said.

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Consumers Fail to Plug into Electrics

A critical year for battery carmakers.

by on Jul.09, 2012

Slow to charge up buyers: the Ford Focus Electric.

There’s a growing supply but where’s the demand?  That’s the question industry officials are increasingly worried about as more and more battery cars enter a market that shows little sign of embracing them.

While sales of some models are up over year-ago levels, notably those of the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, demand for others, such as the Nissan Leaf, have slipped year-over-year.  And still others, new to the market such as the Ford Focus Electric, are moving at such a slow pace they’re little more than rounding errors on the sales charts.

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Few now believe demand for plug-ins, in particular, will come near to meeting a target set by an Obama Administration that has strongly advocated alternative power – and backed it with billions of dollars in federal loans and grants to automakers and battery car manufacturers.

The President had forecast 1 million plug-ins would be on the road by 2015.  But “There is little evidence” that can happen, according to a new report by Pike Research, a Boulder, Colorado firm focusing on clean technologies such as battery power.

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Three in Four Motorists Ready to “Consider” Alt-Fuel Vehicles

New study confirms fuel economy now the most important factor for U.S. car buyers.

by on May.22, 2012

Motorists say they're very open to alternative powertrain technology. Will that bode well for the new Toyota RAV4-EV?

This year’s near-record run-up in fuel prices has clearly had an impact on the choices American motorists are making when it’s time to buy a new vehicle – in fact, three in four U.S. drivers now say they’re ready to consider an alternative-fuel vehicle, according to a new study.

While many motorists still aren’t ready to trade in their roomy SUVs for high-mileage subcompacts — at least if recent sales are considered — there’s little doubt that there are significant changes underway in the American car market, with fuel economy now a much more important factor than vehicle quality or safety, according to research by the non-profit Consumer Reports.

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“These results make it clear that high fuel prices are continuing to impact driver behavior and influencing future purchase considerations,” said Jeff Bartlett, Consumer Reports deputy auto editor. “While quality, safety and value are still important, this may be foreshadowing a market shift by folks seeking relief at the pump.”

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Early Launch of Model S Offsets Concerns About Widening Tesla Losses

New battery sedan to go on sale in June.

by on May.10, 2012

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk with Model S prototype.

It’s never easy making money when you don’t have a product to sell.  Just ask Tesla Motors.  While the California start-up does have a small income stream from its contract work that wasn’t enough to head off a nearly $90 million loss for the first quarter.

But things could start changing in a hurry, according to Tesla, as the battery-car maker is apparently looking for a much earlier launch than originally planned for its new Model S sedan.  Meanwhile, Toyota is also ready to start rolling out the new RAV4-EV it has developed as part of a partnership with Tesla – which could yield even more new business.

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Tesla is describing 2012 as a “year of two halves.”  Clearly, it would rather get through the first half as quickly as possible.

With the little Tesla Roadster now out of production the company generated just $30 million in revenue during the January to March quarter, down from $49 million a year ago.  As a result, it saw losses shoot to $89.9 million, or $0.86 a share, compared to $48.9 million, or $0.51 a share a year ago.

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Toyota Makes it Official With $50,000 RAV4-EV Launch

Maker promises 100-mile range, sporty performance.

by on May.07, 2012

The Toyota RAV4-EV will be sold in only 4 "select" California markets.

Toyota is charging into the electric vehicle market.  Barely two months after beginning sales of its first plug-in hybrid the Japanese giant has officially launched the new RAV4-EV, a fully-electric version of its popular “cute-ute.”

Priced at $49,800 — before a $7,500 federal tax credit – the Japanese maker plans to use the RAV4-EV to test market interest in battery-electric propulsion which got off to a slow start in 2011.  Significantly, the battery-powered ute was developed as part of an unusual alliance between Toyota and California electric vehicle start-up Tesla Motors.

(For more on Toyota’s increasing reliance on joint ventures and alliances, Click Here.)

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The RAV4-EV is expected to get “approximately” 100 miles range and Toyota estimates it will be able to recharge in as little as six hours using a high-power charger. It will meanwhile deliver similar performance to that of the conventional, gasoline-powered RAV4 crossover-ute, according to the maker.

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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.

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