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Earlier this month, Toyota Executive Veep Kazuo Okamoto made news when he defended his company's pursuit of further developing its parallel hybrid system called the Hybrid Synergy Drive. He was specifically calling out GM's development of the first mass market series hybrid, the Chevy Volt. On Toyota's own Open Road Blog, Irv Miller, Group Vice President of Corporate Communications, came to the defense of his boss soon after. It was an editorial we missed at the time, but reading it this morning was an eye opener.

Miller makes a case for Toyota's support of parallel hybrids by saying that at this point the Volt is vaporware, while you can buy a Prius today. He notes that Volt engineers are only able to get about 10 miles of pure electric range from current lithium-ion batteries, far short of the 40 miles promised by GM. He also goes after the set up of a series hybrid, saying, "So – and we love this part - a series hybrid hauls around a gas engine that isn't available to directly propel the car."

There are no doubt engineers in this audience who will read Toyota's response and rip it to shreds, much like commenters have already done on the original post. We'll merely respond to two points, since we're not engineers. Toyota calling a series hybrid vaporware because there isn't one on the market today is bunk. We assume the Hybrid Synergy Drive was at one time in development, too. While there's certainly a chance the Volt may never happen (10% according to Bob Lutz), the fact that GM is already using the Volt in advertising and has been completely transparent with the car's development tells us that it will do whatever it takes to bring this car to market.

To actually question the efficiency of a series hybrid versus Toyota's parallel system also comes across a bit like sour grapes. While one can argue how clean a car really is that relies on the national grid for electricity, our measuring stick for the success of a green vehicle is how little gas it uses. Sure, it's simplistic, but it not only addresses the general greenness of a vehicle from the perspective of a consumer, but also how much money it will save its owner at the pump, as well how much it will reduce this nation's consumption of oil in general. Point blank, a series hybrid's gas engine (if it employs one) is really a generator, and it's optimized to run at a constant speed with a constant load. However much gas a series hybrid does use, its generator will use it much more efficiently than the engine in a parallel hybrid that has to be powerful enough to drive the wheels.

Aside from taking issue with Toyota's defense, we also read a lot of fear between the lines, a state in which we rarely ever see Toyota. Its reputation as environmental and technology leader is under attack from all sides, and GM of all companies is leading the charge. At the moment, no one doubts the dominance of the Prius and its capabilities, but before too long the green car market will change dramatically. Not only are we promised plug-ins, lithium-ion battery packs and a series hybrid, but new clean diesel engines will be along shortly and likely achieve similar if not better fuel economy in the U.S. than most parallel hybrids. That's because we like to travel on the highways of America more than in its cities where parallel-friendly stop and go driving is standard. Diesels are more efficient at cruising speed, more so in comparable applications than any gas/electric parallel hybrid on the market today. Frankly, we can't wait to see how all this goes down in the next few years, as surely the green conscience consumer will be the ultimate winner.


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  • 82 Comments
      • 7 Years Ago
      All that and the Volt looks a lot cooler too....Hope GM steps up and brings it to market sooner than later!
      • 7 Years Ago
      Toyota can turn lead into gold. I myself don`t believe it but many more beyond comprehension do.
      • 7 Years Ago
      In the end nothing anyone SAYS at GM or Toyota matters very much. It's what they're going to build, how well that works and how much it costs that will determine whether or not it sells. Then we'll know. At the moment Toyota's smack talk sounds juvenile. Next thing you know Miller will be talking about Lutz's mama. Grow up guys, this ain't a school yard.
      • 7 Years Ago
      The main point is Toyota already has a successful parallel hybrid system in the market. Since 2001.

      GM's series hybrid system is not on the market yet and it requires a battery that is also not economically feasible to sell yet in a hybrid car yet. GM fans sholud wait till GM has a successful reliable series hybrid vehicle that makes a decent profit before they mouth off at Toyota.

      Of course you all know any comments from John Neff are going to be biased against Toyota. So take it with a grain of salt.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I';ve come to the sorry conclusion that Toyota is currently a dysfunctional company with respect to
      all things future green. They have changed coarse so many times over the past month about their future plans that I'm convinced they simply don't know what they will be developing. This is really sad. It's like watching a champion dethroned and confused and full of
      spurious arguments as to why he lost.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I'm a little confused. Who are they loosing the plug in battle to?
      • 7 Years Ago
      I have not seen mention of the direct effect of the Toyota Patent Problem. I recall reading some time ago that the Toyota patents are, or were, a major impediment to the true advancement of HEVs and PHEVs. Ford had to pay dearly for the use of licensed technology in their Hybrids.

      The consortium of GM, Daimler-Chrysler and BMW was established to find not only a better way to provide energy but also to find a clear path to development. A-123 Systems of Watertown MA, (www.a123systems.com) has proven battery technology that provides plug-in power for the Toyota Pirus. (Toyota does not seem to like the improvement in performance) A-123 Systems is also a supplier of batteries for the Saturn Vue which is not "vaporware". I suggest readers go to the web site provided earlier and research this subject on their own.

      I must note that I do not work for any corporation or entity engaged in the automotive or battery industries. I am a retired Logistics Analyst who worked in acquisition of major systems. I do read and retain much of the information I obtain from that reading. I also endorse the statement of a well know and respected radio personality "Don't believe anything you read on this web page, or, for that matter, anything you hear on The Neal Boortz Show, unless it is consistent with what you already know to be true, or unless you have taken the time to research the matter to prove its accuracy to your satisfaction. This is known as "doing your homework."

      • 7 Years Ago
      yes an order of as hurt with a side of bull$hit logic by toyota..

      They promies li-ion and fell behind, so they said they were unsafe and backpedaled..

      they are losing the plug in race, now they are a bad idea.

      I can't wait to see them get their noses rubbed in it.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Actually there are more plug in toyotas on the road than GM's so they are not losing that race yet.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Gm already produces parallel hybrids - their two mode system is operating in buses and now in large SUVs. And soon it will be available in smaller vehicles.

      Properly engineered series and parallel hybrid systems will have nearly the same efficiency.

      The real MPG advantage of the Prius is in the details.

      It is reasonably light and aerodynamic. It has a reasonable amount of power. And it doesnt have wide 18+ inch wheels/tires.

      Compare the Prius to a Camry hybrid. Or even a Civic Hybrid. The MPG difference is large.
      • 7 Years Ago
      My neighbor says that he's going to turn lead into gold. He's never going to do it, so I don't have to write an essay about how he's not going to do it.

      The real question is: If Toyota is so sure that series hybrids won't be a viable automotive product, why write about it? Why write about it twice?
      • 7 Years Ago
      Above is to Aaron's comment

      "they are losing the plug in race, now they are a bad idea.
      "
        • 7 Years Ago
        The "plug in" has been used before. So why are you suggesting it's better? You have a secret wind powered generator at home that puts out enough electricity to light up major cities, right?
      • 7 Years Ago
      It is amazing how many people on this board (who likely have no experience in the automotive industry or even an engineering degree) are making such definitive pronouncements about a car that does not yet exist.

      If and when the Volt is on the road, then we'll be able to make a reasonable comparison. In the meantime, all that you can do is speculate. And the speculation here is grossly misinformed.
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