Friday, June 17, 2016

Trial Balloons

In the last week or so I've seen several articles that Toyota may be signaling a shift towards more electrified vehicles. In these days of internet publishing it's difficult to discern whether or not this is just various news organs copying each other's news or it's actually a subtle message being sent from Toyota. Add to that, I, and I think many others, tend to view Toyota's communications in the same vein we do those from a large government. Toyota's communique's tend to be disciplined and coordinated but sometimes things do leak through, sort of.

This Forbes piece is interesting in that, if we follow the author wishes we have some rather timid statements from the Prius Chief Engineer that might mean Toyota is moving towards more electricity.
The world’s largest carmaker might change its battery-skeptic position in the near future, a leading Toyota engineer said today in Tokyo. “Currently, a lot of electricity is still generated from fossil fuels. But this is shifting, and more and more carbon neutral electricity will be generated,” Kouji Toyoshima, Chief Engineer for Toyota’s hybrid Prius range, told me in an exclusive interview today. “That’s why we would like to use more electricity to power our cars.”
Toyoshimasan's statement, on one level seems pretty clear, electricity is getting better so maybe we can power our car with it more than we do. But keep in mind, the hydrogen Mirai is also powered by one of the cleanest fuels (Toyota's claim) available. So, this could easily just be pivoted back to, more fuel cell development, batteries aren't ready for prime time talk which Toyota has clung to for a long time (far too long in this writer's opinion).
Toyota was known as a battery doubter in the past, for betting on hybrid-electric cars for the midrange, and on fuel cell vehicles for the upper range. In the future, “us and our competitors will move to using much more carbon neutral energy,” Toyoshima predicted.
Well that is certainly true. There are competitors out there selling electrified vehicles that Toyota has disdained thus far, lots of them. And maybe this is really the issue. While Toyota was a leader and pioneer in hybrids, for fully electrified vehicles or plug-in Toyota has, sadly, sat on the sidelines tossing the standard "you can't make money on them" barb that used to be directed at Prius.
For the utmost in carbon neutral, zero emission energy, “Toyota might even produce bicycles,” Toyoshima said.
Toyota loves to produce whacky little one offs but I'll believe bikes when I see them rolling off a production line.

Might be cool though.

That's Toyoshimasan in the center doing the thumbs up and that's me, to the right of him at a private event during the New Auto show. I also met him in Las Vegas at the rollout of the fourth generation Prius late in 2015.

Here's another take on Schmitt, the Forbes author that is a little rougher on him and perhaps appropriately so given his former connection to serial liar Volkswagen. Cheers to Zach Shahan for his story.