Toyota’s participation at the SAE World Congress will highlight the latest developments of the company’s hybridization strategy. Having sold 1.2 million Prius models worldwide, the company has continued to improve overall efficiency levels of that model. Now into its third generation, the Prius has a 14% improvement in fuel economy, despite having 22% more power. The car also has the lowest drag coefficient for a hatchback—0.25 Cd—and is powered by the only full hybrid powertrain on the mass market.
The technology that is housed within one of the latest Toyota vehicles slated for production—the plug-in hybrid Prius—will be on display, and visitors to the Toyota booth will get the opportunity to find out more about how the Hybrid Synergy Drive technology will be integrated into the plug-in package. Visitors will also get the chance to learn more about the vehicle’s lithium-ion battery pack, which allows drivers to travel up to 20 km (12 mi) in electric-only mode.
Because its battery is slightly larger than that in the standard vehicle, the plug-in Prius has slightly slower acceleration, but energy regeneration is completed more quickly and more efficiently. Toyota’s battery research department has invested a lot of time and money in working with Panasonic EV Energy to develop and lease plug-in hybrids equipped with more advanced lithium-ion batteries. But Toyota’s battery development work will continue until 2012, when the Japanese manufacturer plans to bring the plug-in hybrid Prius, and its technology, to the mass market.
Having undergone a rigorous road testing schedule in France and the U.K., the Toyota’s recharging takes no more than 2 h. Compared to Toyota’s hybrid Prius, the plug-in version is able to run more often in its petrol-free, electric-only mode, meaning lower running costs and less CO2—especially when renewable electricity is used.
The plug-in hybrid is one of the goals that Toyota has leading up to the 2020s, when the Japanese manufacturer ensures that every model across the Toyota and Lexus ranges will have a hybrid variant. In the first part of this decade, Toyota is looking to sales of 1 million hybrid models a year and for its manufacturing plants to achieve major reductions in water usage, power usage, and waste generation.
Toyota, of course, is not committed solely to hybrid technology and its Hybrid Synergy Drive system. Toyota is simultaneously exploring a whole range of cleaner and greener innovations. Having made a fundamental commitment to develop hybrid systems as the core technology for eco-cars, the company is able to combine different power sources in ways that maximize the strengths of each. Toyota maintains that the vision of development of fuel cells, electric vehicles, biofuels, conventional gasoline and diesel technologies, as well as hybrids is ambitious, but it believes it will continue to push technological advances onto the market providing the right car, for the right place, at the right time.