A standard Camry hybrid

Hybrid vehicles are increasingly becoming mainstream, but so far all of the production units available on the market have used gasoline exclusively as the fuel for the internal combustion engine. Various manufacturers have also shown concept and one-off test hybrid vehicles with diesel and E85 capable flex-fuel engines. One combination we don't recall seeing is a CNG fueled hybrid. Toyota plans to address that oversight at the LA Auto Show in November with a CNG fueled Camry Hybrid. Vehicles running on compressed natural gas are nothing new, although the only one currently offered by a major automaker in the US right now is the Honda Civic GX. Since CNG vehicles have a shorter range, they have primarily been used by fleets with centralized filling stations. Toyota has built this vehicle as part of its wide ranging sustainable mobility strategy. With domestic supplies of CNG being comparatively plentiful, something like a CNG hybrid sedan could be a good option for someone who does most of their driving locally. Combine it with the Phill home fueling station and you'd never have to go to a gas station again. Press release after the break.

[Source: Toyota]



PORTLAND, Ore., Sept. 24, 2008 – Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), U.S.A., Inc., announced here today at its Sustainable Mobility Seminar that it will display a compressed natural gas (CNG) Camry Hybrid concept vehicle at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November.

"With the combination of plentiful long-term supplies in North America, improved and more efficient recovery methods, favorable pricing and clean-burn/low emissions characteristics, CNG has become a prime energy-source for the future," said Irv Miller, group vice president, TMS Corporate Communications. "With this concept, we are confirming our interest in pursuing CNG within our broad and comprehensive R&D scope."

In 1999 Toyota marketed a CNG-powered four-cylinder Camry to fleet customers in California. However, in an era of relatively cheap gasoline, customers were not attracted to a vehicle that required special refueling techniques and a limited refueling infrastructure and the program was discontinued a year later. Currently, there are only about 1,000 CNG refueling stations nationwide, with less than half open to the public.

The benefits of CNG are currently being amplified by rapidly changing market conditions and an increase in consumer environmental awareness. At the same time its drawbacks are being mitigated by a growing awareness that advanced technologies will require investment in appropriate infrastructure. The U.S. CNG pipeline system is an approximately 1.8 million mile network and expanding.

"Natural gas," adds Miller, "and an expanded retail-friendly CNG infrastructure could be seen as a model for future hydrogen infrastructure."

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