Safety Concerns Delay Next Generation Hybrids From Toyota ~ Hybrid Car Review
Hybrid Car Review: Safety Concerns Delay Next Generation Hybrids From Toyota

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Safety Concerns Delay Next Generation Hybrids From Toyota

The Wall Street Journal is reporting Toyota may delay the launch of its Lithium Ion (Li-Ion) battery powered hybrids by a year or two, citing safety concerns with the new battery packs. These safety issues have been reported before, but the WSJ is giving definite numbers on the delay. This delay may give GM and others a chance to play catch up with the hybrid leader.

Toyota had hoped to have a dozen new and redesigned models out by 2010. But with their concerns over safety causing delays, Toyota executives expect to launch around 10 Li-Ion battery hybrids in 2011-2012. The new generation hybrids will include a crossover with three rows of seating, and a wagon derivative of the Camry. The first Toyota hybrid to use a Li-Ion battery pack may be a wagon version of the Prius.

Hybrid versions of the Tundra and SUV Sequoia have been delayed until 2013 or 2014.

Toyota is looking to use Li-Ion batteries based on lithium cobalt oxide. Safety concerns include overheating, catching fire or even exploding, i.e. the issues Sony had with their laptop batteries.

The new batteries, once they are out, are expected to take hybrids from 40 to 50 mpg average up to 60 or 70 mpg, if you don't plug them in. Plug-ins hybrids are expected to jump fuel efficiency even higher.

In the meantime, the next generation Prius, expected to launch in 2009, will have Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) battery packs. Without a jump in fuel efficiency, some experts wonder if Toyotas stated goal of 600,000 hybrids a year early next decade will become a reality.

GM stated their Li-Ion powered hybrids are still on track. They expect the plug-in Saturn Vue Green Line to be powered with Li-Ion batteries and will be in showrooms by the end of 2009. The much vaunted Chevy Volt is expected in 2010. GM's Li-Ion batteries are being developed with A123 Systems and are based on iron phosphates, which they believer are more stable.

Some members of Toyota's engineering and product-development divisions are still pushing to get Toyotas first Li-Ion hybrid out by 2010.

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