Energy source development for automobiles has centered on fossil fuels. However, in anticipation of the coming oil peak, it is essential to find multiple sources of energy generation. Electric power is considered one of the most promising options for the future. So far, Toyota has sold more than 2 million hybrid vehicles worldwide, driving ahead with hybrid technology as the most realistic electric car solution. Moving forward, Toyota will make continued efforts to increase annual sales volume beyond the 1 million mark and, from a future vantage point, will positively address the development and promotion of plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles by utilizing hybrid technology.
After the beginning of the 21st Century, about 100 years have passed since the start of motorization. Automobiles have become indispensable tools for transportation in industrialized countries; for developing regions, their importance is expected to increase in step with economic growth. Under these circumstances, Toyota is pursuing efforts to realize sustainable mobility — that is, a mobile society in which automobiles can co-exist with communities and the global environment. In general, the automobile faces these challenges in adapting to the global environment: 1) Reducing CO2 emissions to help prevent global warming, 2) Encouraging the need for energy source diversity, and 3) Preventing air pollution.
With regard to energy source diversity, oil is expected to remain the primary resource for the time being. Accordingly, for gasoline and diesel powered vehicles, solutions are under way that focus on improving fuel efficiency, including reducing vehicle size and weight, redesigning powertrains and introducing hybrid technologies.
Fossil fuels are expected to remain dominant for the present, but their production will inevitably reach a peak at some point and then decline. It is therefore necessary to respond to the need for alternative fuels in parallel with efforts to conserve existing oil resources, such as improving fuel efficiency. There are a variety of alternative fuel candidates, including biofuels, natural gas, electric power and hydrogen. To determine which source to choose, it is necessary to take a range of factors into account, including the amount of CO2 reduction from mining to consumption (well-to-wheel), compatibility with automotive applications and the local energy situation in each country and region.
Solutions to Environmental and Energy Issues
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Electric power is a promising energy source among many alternatives. It can be generated from various primary energy sources — sunlight, hydraulic power and other renewable and clean energies — and can easily be supplied for automotive use. There are, however, a number of hurdles for putting it into practical use, which Toyota is making constant R&D efforts to overcome as it launches its Battery Research Division.
Among many kinds of alternative fuels, electric power offers some critical technologies for alternative fuel development. For example, adding a battery-charging feature facilitates plug-in hybrid vehicles. If an internal combustion engine is replaced with an electric motor, for the vehicle becomes an electric vehicle. And, if a conventional gasoline engine is replaced with a fuel cell, the electricity it produces can be used as fuel-cell hybrid power. For this reason, Toyota positions the hybrid system as "the 21st Century's core environmental technology" in its R&D approaches to sustainable mobility.
With regard to development of sustainable mobility, there are various possibilities and, at the same time, a number of hurdles to overcome. In light of such circumstances, it is necessary, when creating environment-considering vehicles, to continue development and refinement of the technology that appears most promising at the point when far-sighted development work is undertaken. At the center of these technologies are hybrid vehicles that adopt hybrid systems, and plug-in hybrid vehicles that have now evolved closer to the realm of pure electric vehicles. Ever since it launched the Prius, the world's first hybrid production model, in 1997, Toyota has made constant efforts to refine the technology and reinforce the product lineup. Consequently, the cumulative production of 12 Toyota hybrid passenger car models worldwide reached the 2.5 million mark at the end of April 2010. The lineup now consists of 15 models including 3 commercial vehicle models. Approaching the future, Toyota has set a goal for annual sales volume at 1 million units in the early 2010's. Accordingly, its overseas manufacturing bases will be increased and the models will eventually be produced in the U.S., China, Thailand, Australia and U.K. Meanwhile, about 600 plug-in hybrid vehicles, which can be charged at home and used as EVs for short-distance travel, were made available for leasing in Japan, the U.S. and Europe at the end of 2009. The introduction of these plug-in hybrid vehicles offers an opportunity to gather customer feedback on their performance, which will aid in refining their marketability. By 2012, Toyota aims to introduce electric vehicles to markets in Japan, the U.S. and Europe. A plan to introduce fuel cell vehicles around 2015 is also under way, but will be pursued in association with governments and other entities engaged in activities such as infrastructure building. It is expected that expansion of these hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles will be a firm step forward toward sustainable mobility. In May 2010, Toyota announced an agreement with a U.S. EV venture, Tesla Motors, Inc., to jointly develop electric vehicles.
In realizing sustainable mobility for many years to come, it would not be sufficient to devote R&D to vehicle technologies alone. Examples of other critical factors include the expansion of power charging stands for electric vehicles, innovations in traffic systems in conjunction with upgrades to public transportation and other social preparations necessary to gain acceptance. Toyota is pressing ahead with domestic and international demonstrator tests and programs for infrastructure development initiatives to realize sustainable mobility. A "‘Family and Community Model' Low-carbon City-building Demonstration Project" commenced in April 2010, where the tests are carried out to reduce automobile-based CO2 emissions, achieve effective utilization of car batteries and prepare for the introduction and promotion of next-generation vehicles, including those for public transportation. Furthermore, in an effort to promote the installation of fast chargers and standardize charging methods, two factors that are indispensable in EV expansion, the CHAdeMO association* was formed in March 2010 by the companies involved. Internationally, an extensive experimental program was initiated jointly with the French utility firm EDF, for which about 100 plug-in hybrid vehicles were delivered to the city of Strasbourg, France. EDF has placed some 150 power charging stands within the city to verify the effects of charging facilities as it continues vehicle R&D efforts in preparation for future expansion of Plug-in Hybrid technology. Along with its vehicle-based R&D efforts, Toyota hopes to make sustainable mobility a reality as soon as possible through socially involved demonstrator tests and infrastructure building like these.
*CHAdeMO is a trade name of the fast charger that the association is working to standardize.
Plug-in hybrid car charging batteries at Kamigamo-jinja, a World Heritage site
In the major international sightseeing spot of Kyoto, the Yasaka Group (known as "Yasaka Taxi") deployed the first model of Prius in its taxi fleet in 1998, which was a world first. Yasaka's commercial fleet of approximately 1,400 vehicles includes 10 Prius cars. A taxicab travels hundreds of kilometers a day; the fuel efficiency offered by hybrid systems leads to a reduced environmental impact and lower fuel costs, driving the selection process for an increasing number of environment-oriented customers. At the first opportunity, when plug-in hybrid vehicles were launched on the market in December 2009, five were added to the fleet. Customers have come to appreciate the next-generation vehicle's impressive properties, including the quiet operation of the electric motor.
The city of Kyoto, whose major sightseeing areas are concentrated within a radius of approximately 20 kilometers, provides ideal driving conditions for plug-in hybrid vehicles. Its temples and shrines are well equipped with power chargers, making it possible to charge the vehicle's batteries during a tour. The group's special tour program to visit Kamigamo-jinja Shrine and other world cultural heritage sites by plug-in hybrid vehicle, "Kyo no Eco Tabi (Eco Tour in Kyoto)," has been available since April. Yasaka Taxi is making a contribution to local communities and reducing the impact on the global environment by operating as an eco-responsible sightseeing transportation firm.