Toyota Plans for Plug-in Production in 2012

Toyota plans to begin commercial production of plug-in hybrids in 2012, producing between 20,000 and 30,000 units in the first year, according to Nikkei, the Japanese business daily. Toyota hopes to sell its plug-in hybrid for about $48,000.

According to Nikkei, Toyota’s plug-ins will run 12 to 18 miles on battery power alone at full charge. Plug-in hybrids can be cleaner than regular hybrids because they can run for longer periods purely on electricity—but the need for more batteries makes them expensive. The plug-in cars will use lithium ion batteries produced by Toyota’s joint venture with Panasonic Corp., Panasonic EV Energy, which provides the nickel metal hydride batteries for current Toyota hybrids.

The swifter move toward plug-in hybrids contradicts recent statements from Toyota executives. Masatami Takimoto, an executive vice president in research and development, last month told the Washington Post that the batteries required for plug-in cars are not ready. Takimoto said, “Fundamental issues are unsolved.” Bill Reinert, US national manager for advanced technology, appearing at a National Academy of Sciences panel in May said the plug-in market will be limited, and questioned the real-world mileage benefits of plug-in hybrids. And Irv Miller, Toyota group vice president of corporate communications, also speaking in May, said that the heavier battery pack required for plug-in hybrids becomes a “boat anchor” when they are depleted.

Later this year, Toyota will expand its evaluation of plug-in hybrids by leasing approximately 500 plug-in versions of its third-generation Prius. The leases will go to government agencies and corporations in Japan, the United States, and throughout Europe.


  • DC

    12 to 18 miles, wow….impressive-not. Toyota executives seem to suffer from very short memories RAV4-EV? Were its batteries also “not ready”? I am also unclear what what “fundamental issues are unsolved”. The EV-1? I guess those were not ready either. Maybe Toyota is still smarting from chevrons sueing them for 30 milion over the EV-95 battery(which they promptly buried). And who is this Bill Reinhert anyhow? Did he also predict there was no market for hybrid cars too? The only reason these batteries in these cars are so small and therefore, more or less useless is chevron will only allow panasonic to produce EV batteries that are well….more or less useless. Another reason there useing Li-on batteries is so they can be “studied and reasearched” for another…10-20 years or however long it takes for people to stop asking for powerful EV vehicles. This is Toyotas version of the Volt AFAIC. If toyota hadnt crushed its RAV4-EV and built other vehicles like them, and actually made them availble to North Americans, indeed the world, I would own one right now.

  • Rob S

    Oil Co Patents that prevent innovation or restrict use, could be invalidated if it was proved that the patent was held for the purpose of preventing competition to oil; if only our leaders gave a dam.

  • DJB

    It’s like watching a baby take its first step . . .

    Let’s hope this is more than just talk, and that Toyota works furiously on upping the all-electric range and lowering the price.

  • DD

    I would go with Tesla’s Model S any day:

    http://www.teslamotors.com/models/index.php

    From the link above:

    * 300 mile range
    * 45 minute QuickCharge
    * 0-60 mph in 5.6 seconds
    * Seats 7 people
    * More cargo space than sedans
    * 2X as efficient as hybrids
    * 17 inch infotainment touchscreen

    Base price $49,900, that’s only $1,900 more than the plug-in Prius. Will start deliver in 2011 …

  • Dan L

    Hmmm… Take a Prius that sells for $22k. Add enough lithium ion batteries for 18 miles of all-electric range. That’s about $5k. Throw in a charger and an extension cord. Add it all up and you get…. $48k?!?!?!

    I can’t help but think that Toyota is deliberately telling us bad availablity, cost, and range numbers in an attempt to get us to by third generation Priuses now instead of waiting for the plugin.

  • David

    What happened to the EV-1? GM decided that people wouldn’t pay over $80,000 for one. At least that was the estimated cost for each one from an industry analyst that was quoted in Wikipedia. Granted if the program wasn’t cancelled, the Volt would be here much earlier. But the major problem was range – 50-75 miles in the first generation and a *maximum* of 150 in the second (in good weather with the wind behind you). The Volt has the advantage of being able to keep going when the battery runs out. Remember, for mst people – especialyy families – a vehicle has to fill a LOT of rolls from daily commuter, to errand runner, to Kid Taxi, to weekend vacation hauler. I know that I couldn’t afford over $80K for a special-purpose vehicle.

  • Reese

    EV-1? Poorly marketed, poorly executed (intentional) plan to fulfill California’s regs for emissions. And for GM’s sins of the past we celebrate their misfortunes and kill the fatted calf welcoming them home like the prodigal son. Open your wallets and get ready to buy GM stock because the US will NOT let this company go “Bust” no matter what it does or has done! I guess we can consider it an investment in ourselves since the tax payer (you and I) will own 60%. As partial owner, I say dust off those 20 year old EV-1 design drawings, learn from your mistakes and give it another shot. Oops, you mean you shredded all the plans along with the cars? Tsk, Tsk! DOH!

    Isn’t it funny how Ford produces the GT40, Chevrolet produces the ZR1 Corvette and Chrysler produced the Prowler and Viper? These vehicles are/were never intended for the mainstream family and still they are/were marketed. I don’t understand how they justified the return-on-investment and how the big three will spend money on design “improvements” and complete new models of exotic extreme muscle cars when there are exciting new technologies beyond the goal of a 1,000 hp ICE. Then they turn around and say that they are unwilling/afraid/reluctant to invest in the electric/hybrid technology because of the profitability margin. When I was a kid I thought the car companies were visionaries. Of course the first electric/hybrid domestic models will have bugs. Apparently the big 3 want the recalls to be minimal? Tic-toc, tic-toc. . . . .

  • david

    Further research into the EV-1 shows a lot more problems. Doug Wickstrom of Hughes Electronics (you know, the GM division that produced the car) had a lot to say about it.

    GM lost two BILLION dollars on the car. The lease income didn’t even cover the cost of SERVICING the car.

    The 130 mile range was bogus. Headlights knocked 10% off the range and the a/c or heater would whack 50% off.

    Home electric systems couldn’t handle the draw required for “fast” charging.

    NiMH batteries were failing at 6 months (compare that to how long a Prius battery pack lasts).

    Lessees complained that their electric bills went sky-high.

    These are reasons why you can’t just “dust off” the EV-1 blueprints. Based on the complaints I’m reading, the EV-1, as a practical car, seems to have *sucked*. Having said that, I have high hopes that the Volt can overcome all those negative points (lack of range being primary in my book).

  • Samie

    As said the NiMH battery was the real reason for the EV1′s demise. I thought in an interview Rick Wagner said the true cost of each EV1 produced was over 300,000. But w/ Wagner who knows….

    Anyways that’s all in the past & I agree w/ Dan L. I doubt the numbers for the Li battery Plug-in Prius will be that expensive or low in mileage range. I think they will release the plug-in as an option on their next generation of Prius which means another 4-5 yrs???

    GM w/ the serial hybrid has a potential hit. At least in the short-term until EV’s progress. The concept of the Volt, if they commit to it w/ help from the Federal Government over a 10 yr period may become the next Prius. But like the promising EV project the Volt may get underfunded & lack of future R&D. Why? GM said it would produce a hydrogen fuel cell car, updated two-mode, continue E85, & the serial hybrid, the Volt. All these things cost millions if not billions of $$$$. Does GM have the capital to fund all these projects, NO! That is why I’m concerned about the future of this company or any clear vision or leadership at GM. The Volt may never meet peoples expectations if GM doesn’t get their act together.

  • Lost Prius to wife

    Just so people will understand, lithium batteries are still a developing technology. The most popular lithium battery at present is the lithium iron phosphate. My associate, an engineer specializing in lithium batteries and courted by Chevrolet for their battery production line, indicates that the biggest problem is temperature related. If it is cold outside and the batteries are just as cold, if one charges the battery too fast it plates out the lithium (synonymous to wiping out the battery). If it is hot outside and the batteries are just as hot, if one charges the battery too fast it plates out the lithium. If the batteries are made “beefy” enough, they can overcome this problem. But then they do not hold as much charge. Although they will be lighter than the same size metal halide batteries, they would hold only marginally more charge at a much greater cost than the metal halide batteries. To make lithium batteries less “beefy” is to increase failure rate at this time. This comes under warranty problems – and what manufacture wants warranty problems.

    The first generation Prius metal halide batteries have a failure rate of approximately 1%. The second generation Prius metal halide batteries have a failure rate of approximately .002% and, according to Toyota, will last the “lifetime” of the Prius (“lifetime” being the 180K mileage warranty as far as Toyota’s warranty concerns are; reality shows it to be even longer). The third generation’s metal halide batteries are even beefier and should last even longer.

    I feel Toyota is still leery of the lithium battery versus warranty. I suspect they have opted for a smaller “beefier” lithium battery rather than the 16kW battery that the Volt is to have. This way, if the battery is either hot or cold, the charge time will not be long (relative to a less beefy battery). Of course, the tradeoff is how many miles per charge one will get versus a less beefy 16kW battery.

  • ex-EV1 driver

    Its great news if Toyota will actually produce a plug-in, even if it only goes a short distance before having to start burning gasoline.
    I wonder how fast it will be able to go under electric power alone. If they simply use today’s weak Hybrid Synergy Drive technology, it won’t be able to go at highway speeds but at least its a start.
    Regarding Lithium batteries: The cold situation isn’t too bad since they warm up fairly quickly as soon as you start driving. Hot temperatures require dealing with. They must be cooled down, just as any other engine must be cooled down. Hot and cold weather reduce batteries’ efficiency but they still work fine if designed properly.
    I’ve driven about 50,000 miles in electric vehicles using NiMH and Li-ion batteries and can assure you that, while they are expensive in the small quantities to date, they can be designed to work well.
    Prices will go down. Nearly any car costs billions of dollars to develop. If you only sell 1500 of them (as GM did with their EV1), the cost per vehicle will naturally be high. If you sell millions of them, the cost per vehicle goes down quickly.

  • Lost Prius to wife

    ex-EV1 driver, you are right that the lesser of the two evils is the cold weather. And you are correct that if properly charged, any of the lithium batteries will last possibly just as long as the metal halides (even though more expensive). But the charging rates for both cold and hot is slower than at ambient temperatures. The question comes down to what the manufacture thinks the public will accept as an acceptable charging rate and time. And just remember all the computer lithium batteries that caught fire (basically plating out the lithium + heat from improper charging). Not many car manufactures want to be associated to any such happening to cars and, therefore, they are all being very cautious about “jumping” into plug-ins with lithium batteries.

  • Chrystal K.

    I definitely can’t afford that right now.

  • RKRB

    Toyota is the world leader in hybrid vehicle technology, they estimate lithium won’t be ready until 2012 at best and will get about 20 miles per charge, and they are conservative but have a reasonably successful track record for introducing new technologies and designs. GM has spent billions on unsuccessful attempts to develop electric and hybrid technologies without success, they are trying for a 2010 lithium introduction come what may and project about 40 miles per charge, and they have a record of innovation that includes their diesel passenger car which set diesel vehicles back several years. Hope I’m wrong but …

    My bet would be with Toyota.

  • ex-EV1 driver

    Lost Prius…,
    I don’t see how ambient temperatures factor in to charging rates. One must use enhanced cooling for fast charging electric vehicles using any kind of battery chemistry. This can be as simple as using fans or, for really fast charging, compressor/expansion based cooling (air conditioning) as the Tesla uses or the EV1 did. Li-ion and NiMH batteries work well under the same temperatures as humans do and we definitely are able to exist comfortably in both hot and cold temperatures. I’ve charged a Tesla in open parking lots in Las Vegas where the ambient temperature was around 105 F. Sure, it took about 25% longer than it would have if the ambient temperature were 50 F but it got the job done just fine.
    I don’t see temperature as being a significant limitation for battery charging, if a little engineering is done. If you want to charge faster, you must provide more cooling and that’s 100 year old technology.
    Most car companies don’t want electric cars so they’ll use any excuse to put it off, even though they all know that electric cars are the solution to some of the world’s bigger problems. NiMH, PbA, or Li-ion will probably all work with different capabilities and prices.

  • Lost Prius to wife

    ex-EV1 driver, I feel, for you and me, any increase in charging time and any added cost for cooling requirements for battery charging are acceptable. These are just a part of changing technology / culture and a part of a new future. It is just a question of how many more people are willing to accept what we are willing to accept. I know of some people that are not willing to accept any electric or hybrid vehicles until those vehicles exactly match the gas guzzlers in both performance and cost. Personally, I think they are not thinking outside the box they are in and about what is needed to make it into the future. Of course, that is a personal opinion that is probably just as opposite to their personal opinion.

    Your last paragraph, “Most car companies don’t want electric cars . . .”, is probably all too true. I am hoping that Toyota, Ford, and Honda are trying to help change that culture, both inside and outside their companies.

  • ex-EV1 driver

    Lost Prius…
    One fully tangible hope lies in Tesla, even though this site and many others disregard it as being a limited thing.
    They still have a huge backlog for their Roadster and it is taking over its market segment because it offers better performance than any gas guzzler in its segment. Now, we need for it to flow down into the rest of the automobile market. Average people have never thought or acted outside the box. That’s why we have visionaries to lead the way.
    Regarding your mentioned companies:
    Toyota – maybe
    Ford – probably
    Honda – not for a long time.
    Change will not come from the guys who are already on top. It will come from those who need to differentiate themselves:
    Nissan – very likely
    Mitsubushi – very likely
    Tesla – definitely
    Fisker – definitely
    Miles – definitely
    Remember that it wasn’t Kodak, Fuji, or Canon that led the digital camera revolution, it was the little guys.

  • Lost Prius to wife

    “Change will not come from the guys who are already on top. It will come from those who need to differentiate themselves:”

    ex-EV1 driver, your point is well made.

  • Reality Check

    It appears that government policy in both Europe and the U.S. is in search of the perfect at the expense of the very good.

    U.S. EPA rates the non-plug in Toyota 2010 Hybrid ( non-plug in ) at 50 MPG average for both highway and city. This is the current gold standard in Hybrids. These sell for between 20K and 30K before government tax subsidies.

    That is 2.7 times the current average gas guzzling clunkers they are trying to get off the road with $3,500 to $4,500 tax credits for the richest Americans ( Obama’s policy – not Bush’s ). Obama will give richer people ( those who pay more than $4,500 in U.S. Income taxes each year ) $4,500 to buy a car that get’s just 28 MPG. More than half the people in the US pay zero ( $0.00 ) dollars in income tax each year – so it only helps the richer half even $1.00s worth.

    Tax Credits for just buying a Hybrid, which use to as much as $7,500 have been virtually eliminated.

    Plug in capacity without massively expanding battery size could be added relatively cheaply to existing non-plugin hybrids. This might only get you the first 5 to 10 miles per day transferred to the electric grid – rather than imported oil, but times say 50 million cars that could be huge !!!

    Obama is instead eliminating effective tax incentives to buy a 50 MPG car rather than a 28 MPG car by phasing out and eliminating effective tax credits for Hybrids ( plugins or non-plugins ) which lack massively larger – and as yet unproven in mass production – electric car batteries.

    50 MPG cars are in mass production and using proven technology – in the form of non-plugin hybrids.

    It makes more sense to use government policy to pursue say 60 MPG fleets world wide in the next 5 to 10 years than throw Trillions down a rat hole trying to build just a couple ( 2 ) million electric cars with massively larger batteries over the next 5 years.

    All the current policy will do is triple electric rates and waste Trillions building cars that likely will be in the junk yard five years after they are built.

  • Reality Check

    Here is a clunker replacement program that would get results – not waste money.

    Replace a car getting a city / highway average of 18 MPG or less,

    With one getting:

    25 – 29 MPG Avg. = $750 refundable tax credit

    30 – 39 MPG Avg. = $1500 refundable tax credit

    40 – 49 MPG Avg. = $3000 refundable tax credit

    50 – 54 MPG Avg. = $4500 refundable tax credit

    55 – 60 MPG Avg. = $6000 refundable tax credit

    No requirement to buy new – used cars up to 10 years old OK.

    Now that would get you a very rapid turn over in your fleet from gas guzzlers to what is today very high efficiency and older cars to much newer cars.

    Instead Obama is giving rich folks only $3500 to buy cars with average gas mileage of 20 MPG to 28 MPG.

    Some folks can screw up a wet dream.

  • Reality Check

    How would you pay for those kind of incentives without borrowing it on the back of our Grand Children as part of the national debt ??? Charge $2.00s a gallon on imported gasoline and diesel – or the equivalent on imported oil used to make gasoline or diesel.

    Dedicate all the money from this tax to these incentives.

    Talk about eliminating the importing of foreign oil.

    Talk about driving down the world wide price of oil and gasoline.

    That would do both within five years.

  • apeweek

    That Wickstrom guy is just some random nobody who made a usenet post. He’s writing from a Comcast address, not a Hughes one. See for yourself:

    http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.sf.fandom/msg/01b5d27d94622692

    His usenet history shows no participation in any technical discussions, anywhere. He has no engineering credentials. And his comments display an appalling technical incompetence.

    How could headlights – which use under 1% as much electricity as a traction motor – reduce driving range by 10%? The same goes for his other useless points.