All that's missing is an airbrushed portrait of T. Boone Pickens on the hood. Of what, you ask? Of the Toyota Camry CNG Hybrid concept, which explores the idea of combining Hybrid Synergy Drive with natural gas power. It debuts this week at the Los Angeles Auto Show, and is easily identifiable thanks to its grille-free schnoz. With a pair of tanks stowed in the trunk's spare tire well (the car rolls on run-flats), the CNG-fueled Camry Hybrid reportedly has a range of "more than 250 miles" according to the Open Road Blog. Upsides? Compressed natural gas burns cleaner, emitting fewer particulate emissions than gasoline, and even with the lower pump prices we're currently experiencing, CNG is still a little cheaper per gallon.
The tradeoffs? CNG must be stored in cylindrical containers, so Toyota (or any other automaker, for that matter) loses the flexibility of being able to shape the fuel tank to best suit a car's packaging. CNG's also less dense than gas, which means less overall power than a comparable, conventionally-powered car. And then there's that infrastructure bugaboo that seems to always pops up when discussing otherwise nifty-sounding green fuel ideas (think ethanol and hydrogen): a dearth of filling stations for the fuel in question. Toyota says there are only around 1,000 CNG pumps in the country, and most of them aren't publicly accessible anyway. Hence, they have no plans to produce a car like this anytime resembling "soon" -- it's basically just eye candy for green-conscious showgoers.