Think Toyota will sit idle while GM works to launch the Chevrolet Volt? Guess again - in fact, the automaker suggests it will also introduce a plug-in hybrid with lithium-ion batteries by 2010.
During a June 11 conference which focused on its green initiatives, Toyota went on the record as saying a plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle (PHEV) would be launched by 2010. The timing is interesting; not is Chevy's Volt scheduled for an 2010 launch, but so too is the next-generation Prius - which may well become a plug-in hybrid.
Company executives mentioned that prototypes - like the Prius-based PHEV originally shown at the 2007 Tokyo motor show - are currently being tested in Japan, the U.S. and in Europe.
Unlike the current Prius, the plug-in does allow users to recharge their vehicle without running the combustion engine. However, the biggest change lies with its drive cycle. PHEVs aim to run solely in electric mode for as long as possible, turning the engine on only to serve as a "range extender." To achieve this, PHEVs need increased battery capacity, hence the drive towards lithium-ion cells.
On that note, Toyota also mentioned that its lithium-ion R&D partnership with Panasonic would soon be paying off. Toyota said the venture would build small quantities of the batteries in 2009 and move to full-scale production in 2010 - just in time for the launch of Toyota's PHEV.
If the lithium-ion cells weren't enough, Toyota also announced it would form a new battery research center in June 2008. Although no specific details were released, executives said the goal was to develop an "innovative next-generation" battery that could outperform most lithium-ion packs.