If Toyota Questions Plug-ins, Then What? ~ Hybrid Car Review
Hybrid Car Review: If Toyota Questions Plug-ins, Then What?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

If Toyota Questions Plug-ins, Then What?

Toyota is wondering if, despite all the talk and hype, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles will really find a market. They are estimating sales of plug-in hybrids could be as few as 3,500 a year. (Source:Toyota Questions Cost, Batteries of Plug-In Hybrids - Bloomberg.com

Obama has promised 1 million plug-in hybrids on the road by 2015 and the government is throwing billions to develop plug-ins and battery technology, so it's not just a business issue.

The real problem comes from the real-world figures people are seeing in the testing. If a plug-in hybrid gets you 60-70 mpg (or even 50 mpg), instead of the 100+ mpg you might hope for, is the $5-$10K more you would spend on it (mostly for the battery costs) really worth the money over a regular hybrid?

But then, there are the other gains you can expect from a plug-in hybrid production process (or E-REV from GM). The plug-in hybrid, like the hybrid before it, may be thought of as a stepping stone away from gasoline (and oil imports and dependency and so on...). Battery technology and electricity production can be home grown, while oil needs to be imported at the levels needed to move the country around.

So, if we work on producing a plug-in hybrid, you could consider it work to eventually build a better electric car, or possibly in the long run, fuel cells.

Toyota is worried about selling plug-in vehicles because they had such a hard time marketing their electric RAV4. Electric cars don't exactly have a great track record.

But then, the biggest problem with electric cars is their range. Who wants to buy a car that may strand you for lack of fuel if you forgot to 'fuel up' at home. There's no convenient way to plug-in, not unless you have a way of talking others into letting you run a plug into their home or business. And fueling up an electric car isn't exactly something you can do in a few minutes.

Plug-ins (or E-REVs) will be great in that respect, since you can always fill up with the 'other stuff.' Even if you forget to plug it in overnight, you know you can still go. You don't have to worry so much about the electric range, or the battery failing. The gas stations are going to be there.

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