When Toyota's Prius first hit Japanese showrooms in 1997, I was highly skeptical that hybrids would catch on. Not only was the technology really expensive, I thought the nickel-metal hydride batteries would prove to be the Achilles Heel in the system. Sooner or later you'd be facing an expensive replacement bill, right?
The uncertain future of the alternative-powered and alternative-fueled vehicle is being decided by a confluence of old and new technology, big business and start-ups, marketing, vested interests, and public perception. It is no surprise, then, that when it comes to government regulation, we are bound to end up with some conflicting decisions. A company in California that converts regular hybrids to plug-in hybrids has found itself smack in the middle of one of those conflicts.
Even with the $5,000 difference between the Prius and non-hybrid Toyotas, there was a time when Toyota lost money on the car. Even when the car entered the black, and even though they halved the cost of the hybrid system from one generation to the next, Toyota still didn't make the margins on it that they did with their go-to sedans. Yet with plans to start making batteries for the Hybrid Synergy Drive in the U.S., Toyota says it should be able to halve costs again, and bring the next-gen Prius
Petroleum prices are making electric vehicles and engines which run on biofuels look more and more attractive with each passing day. That's why its likely to be a hot topic this election season as each presidential candidate sets out his own unique proposals to ease the country into a new era of lower fuel consumption. Biofuels may be the quickest path to lower petroleum usage, but it's electric vehicles which present the biggest step forward in clean auto technology looking forward.
Even before its first production vehicle ships with a lithium ion battery, Toyota is already making plans for the next wave of energy storage technology. We expect to see Toyota and Lexus products with lithium ion packs sometime around 2010, and Toyota is said to believe that the technology will last about twenty years. Therefore, a replacement will be needed around 2030. For this reason, Toyota has set up a new team of fifty people this month to begin working on the next-next generation of elec
In these days of nearly nonexistent profits for every one of Detroit's Big Three automakers, R&D funds must be allocated very carefully. In contrast, Japanese manufacturers such as Toyota and Honda have been earning profits on a yearly basis. Not long ago, a mild spat arose regarding whether or not the Japanese government helped fund the development of Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive. Even if they didn't do it in the past, Ford's President of the Americas Mark Fields indicated that they are d
Shortly after reports of leaky batteries coming from Cobasys, which greatly slowed the production of GM's mild hybrid vehicles, such as the Saturn Vue and Aura hybrids and Chevy Malibu hybrid, comes a report from Automotive News which suggests that General Motors may just purchase the troubled battery maker outright. That's one way to manage the problem, wouldn't you say? Though GM would own 100-percent of Cobasys, some sort of partnership is said to be in the works, though that other entity rem
Nissan isn't the only Japanese auto manufacturer with big plans for batteries. Toyota will open two new battery plants in Japan and expand a third for the production of nickel metal hydride and lithium ion batteries. All of Toyota's current hybrid vehicles use the older nickel-based battery chemistry. The lithium ion batteries produced at the new plant will likely be scheduled for next-gen hybrids like the upcoming Lexus version of the third-generation Prius sedan. The total investment from Toyo
General Motors is moving forward on their plans for a plug-in hybrid version of the Saturn Vue that chairman Rick Wagoner announced at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Today they are awarding development contracts to Cobasys and Johnson Controls-Saft to create and test lithium-ion batteries. The companies will supply battery packs that will be installed in prototype vehicles with testing to begin later in 2007. Both companies are working on different battery technologies that will be evaluated by GM f