With no scheduled press conference or flashy display stand, you'd be forgiven for thinking Toyota wasn't introducing anything new at the 2008 Los Angeles show. A closer look, however, reveals the Toyota Camry CNG Hybrid concept, a show car that debuted at the LA show with little fanfare.
As the name suggests, the Camry CNG Hybrid concept transforms the stock gasoline-electric hybrid into one that runs on compressed natural gas. Why CNG? According to Chris Hostetter, Toyota's vice president of advanced product strategy, future demand for liquid petroleum will exceed supply, and automakers must look for an alternative.
"We believe CNG will be one of those alternatives," he said.
Indeed, it's an interesting choice. CNG burns cleaner than gasoline, producing less particulate matter, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and nitrous oxide than its commonplace counterpart. Add the ability to run on electric power alone, and the Camry CNG Hybrid can be even greener yet. Toyota claims the concept achieves similar fuel economy figures as a conventional Camry Hybrid, and also has a range of over 250 miles.
The CNG conversion itself is rather mundane (two tanks sit in the trunk, while a number of controls and fuel system components are invisible to bystanders), but Toyota added a few custom touches to the Camry. Note the lack of an actual grille, along with the large 19-inch chrome alloys and the dropped stance.
So if Toyota sees CNG as an avenue for future development, should we expect the CNG Camry Hybrid at dealers anytime soon? Not likely. Consumers would quickly notice the lack of a CNG infrastructure across the country. Toyota notes there are less than 1000 stations with CNG pumps in the U.S., and less than half are actually open to the general public.