The continuous battle of one-upmanship between industry giants GM and Toyota continues, this time in regards to a future wave of plug-in hybrid vehicles due by towards the end of the decade. In one corner is Toyota, which will be sticking with its current hybrid system but modifying the technology to feature a household charger system. In the other corner is GM, which is developing a new, series-hybrid architecture it calls E-Flex. Already displayed in concept form, E-Flex features an all-electric drivetrain and has a backup powerplant (gasoline, diesel or even fuel-cell) that's used solely to charge the batteries.

One of Toyota's execs, Kazuo Okamoto, has come out boasting that his company's current parallel hybrid system, where both an internal combustion engine, as well as an electric motor, can drive the car, is the superior solution. According to Okamoto, after factoring in driving range, battery size, and charge time, the parallel-hybrid platform as seen in the Prius is the only logical way to go.

GM, however, has a trick up its sleeve. Following the announcement of a deal with A123Systems to develop lightweight and long-lasting lithium-ion batteries, GM may have its first E-Flex plug-in on the market by 2010. Toyota, meanwhile, has backed away from the superior battery, claiming that lithium-ion is still too dangerous and will stick with older nickel-metal hydride units instead.

[Source: Green Car Congress]


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