When the first-generation Prius was launched in 1997, annual sales were negligible. Today, Toyota delivers more than one million hybrids annually and which account for 10 percent of its total global sales and 50 percent of the brand’s domestic sales.
As the current leader in the field, Toyota believes that hybrids and plug-in hybrids are the way to go and fuel cell technology is much closer to production than most people think.
Japan’s biggest auto manufacturer is getting ready to add no less than 21 new hybrids, an all-electric RAV-4 and a fuel cell vehicle by 2015.
Although the company did not disclose any info on the fuel cell model, it has already said 2015 is the year the FCV-R concept, which was unveiled at last year’s Tokyo Motor Show, will enter production.
Takeshi Uchiyamada, also known as “the father of the Prius”, explained that Toyota has changed its mind about all-electric vehicles, such as the iQ EV, because they are expensive and have a very limited range. Fuel cell-powered models, on the other hand, have a much better potential due to their greater range and shorter charging times.
For example, the FCR-V concept, which is similar in size to the Prius, features a 70 MPa high-pressure hydrogen tank that provides a range of nearly 700 km (435 miles) – much more than any EV.
Uchiyamada admitted that the reception of the hybrid technology surprised even Toyota itself. “The public’s consciousness is a lot higher than we ever imagined”, he said, adding that he expects tens of thousands of fuel cell vehicles on the world’s streets in the next decade.
For the time being, though, the best solution is probably the plug-in hybrid. That’s because it operates like a pure electric vehicle until the battery is discharged, at which point it switches to an internal combustion engine.
It’s the best compromise available, offering low fuel consumption and emissions and eliminating the issue of the EVs limited driving range. The plug-in version of the Prius, which was launched earlier this year, has already sold 15,600 units.
By Andrew TsaousisStory References: Detroit News