Turbocharging isn't really Toyota's specialty, and the Japanese automaker isn't being shy about acknowledging it. Koei Saga, a senior managing officer in charge of drivetrain research and development, says that eschewing turbos and increasing displacement of engines using the Atkinson cycle can produce better power gains without sacrificing fuel economy, Automotive News reports.
Toyota is investing heavily in larger-displacement Atkinson-cycle engines in addition to turbocharged engines, but Saga doesn't think the automaker will use turbocharging across many product lines. He apparently remains unconvinced that the technology "makes the world better."
In Toyota's eyes then, Atkinson cycle engines do make the world better, and here's how. By keeping the intake valves open longer, they effectively reduce the length of the compression stroke, cutting pumping losses. The result is greater efficiency at the expense of some torque. This works really well when paired with a hybrid system where the electric motor can provide plenty of torque from very low rpm. Even in a non-hybrid a larger-displacement Atkinson cycle engine could produce a net benefit in efficiency while restoring the torque and power without the weight and cost of the hybrid.
In addition to the aforementioned technologies, Toyota is also investing more in continuously variable and fixed-gear automatic transmissions, as well as its fuel-cell vehicle program. As for electric vehicles? Saga is skeptical of them, stating that Toyota wouldn't have developed the RAV4 EV if it weren't forced to comply with California Air Resource Board regulations. Ouch.
*UPDATE: The paragraph describing the Atkinson engines has been corrected.