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Toyota FT-EV concept

Toyota is displaying the Toyota FT-EV concept at the Detroit Motor Show, confirming its plan to launch an urban commuter battery-electric vehicle (BEV) by 2012. The FT-EV concept shares its platform with the new iQ urban commuter vehicle.

Toyota’s FT-EV concept is designed for an urban dweller, driving up to 50 miles between home, work and other forms of public transportation, such as high-speed rail.

The FT-EV, along with the compressed natural gas powered Camry Hybrid concept display at the 2008 Los Angeles Auto Show, signal Toyota’s intention to broaden the scope of its advanced alternative-fuel vehicle development.

“Now, more than ever, while we are so focused on the pressing issues of the moment, we cannot lose sight of our future,” said Irv Miller, TMS Group Vice President, Environmental and Public Affairs. “Nowhere is this more important than with our industry’s duty and commitment to provide true sustainable mobility with vehicles that significantly reduce fuel consumption, our carbon footprint and overall greenhouse gases.”

“Last summer’s four-dollar-a-gallon gasoline was no anomaly.  It was a brief glimpse of our future,” said Miller. “We must address the inevitability of peak oil by developing vehicles powered by alternatives to liquid-oil fuel, as well as new concepts, like the iQ, that are lighter in weight and smaller in size. This kind of vehicle, electrified or not, is where our industry must focus its creativity.”

Although BEVs and new smaller vehicles like the iQ will be a key component of Toyota’s sustainable mobility strategy, the conventional petrol-electric hybrid, like the all new third-generation Prius, is considered Toyota’s long-term core powertrain technology.

Last year, Toyota announced that it planned to sell one million petrol-electric hybrids per year sometime during the early 2010s. To accomplish this, Toyota will launch as many as 10 new hybrid models by the early 2010s, in various global markets. The new third-generation Toyota Prius and all new Lexus HS250h, both debuting in Detroit, are the first two examples of that effort.

Also, last year, Toyota announced that it would roll-out a large number of plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHVs) to global lease-fleet customers in 2010, however that schedule has been brought forward.

Beginning in late 2009, Toyota will start global delivery of 500 Prius PHVs powered by lithium-ion batteries. Of these initial vehicles, 150 will be placed with U.S. lease-fleet customers.

The first-generation lithium-ion batteries powering these PHVs will be built on an assembly line at Toyota’s PEVE (Panasonic EV Energy Company, Ltd) battery plant, a joint-venture production facility in which Toyota owns 60 percent equity. During its development, the new Prius was designed and engineered to package either the lithium-ion battery pack with plug-in capability, or the nickel-metal hydride battery for the conventional petrol-electric system.

The 500 PHVs arriving globally in late 2009 will be used for market and engineering analysis. Lease-fleet customers will monitor the performance and durability of the first-generation lithium-ion battery, while offering real world feedback on how future customers might respond to the plug-in process.

“Future customers will have high expectations for these emerging technologies. This Prius PHV fleet programme is a key first step in confirming how and when we might bring large numbers of plug-in hybrids to global markets,” said Miller.

“Our business is no longer about simply building and selling cars and trucks. It is about finding solutions to mobility challenges today and being prepared for more daunting challenges in our very near future.”