El Prius enchufable llega este año con las primeras 500 unidades

El Toyota Prius de tercera generación ya es un gran éxito en Japón, y el fabricante de automóviles prevé alquiler una versión enchufable o recargable (plug-in) a clientes de empresas y municipioss a finales de año.

Sólo 200 unidades están previstas para el lanzamiento en Japón, en virtud de un programa conjunto con el Ministerio de Economía, Comercio e Industria, destinadas a promover la adopción de híbridos enchufables (plug-in) y vehículos eléctricos (EV). Aunque el nuevo Prius, como todos los anteriores, utiliza una batería de níquel-hidruro metálico, el Prius plug-in cuenta con una de iones de litio.

"Toyota Motor Corp. estima que, en respuesta a la diversificación de las fuentes de energía, los vehículos híbridos plug-in son actualmente los más adecuados para el medio ambiente considerado el uso generalizado de los vehículos", dijo la compañía en un comunicado. "TMC, por lo tanto, tiene la intención de impulsar la comercialización de de los vehículos híbridos plug-in, con la introducción de un total de 500 vehículos a nivel mundial, principalmente a clientes de flotas para su posterior utilización y la comprensión de los vehículos."

No somos ajenos al experimento. Toyota tiene previsto enviar 150 híbridos plug-in a Estados Unidos. Aún más unidades se prevén para Europa.

El plug-in se basa en el Prius 2010, presentado en Japón el mes pasado. Toyota ya tiene más de 80.000 pedidos del híbrido convencional en Japón. Fue el coche más vendido en Japón el mes pasado, mientras que el Honda Insight encabeza la lista en abril.

Toyota explicó que de las 150 unidades que llegarán a Europa, 100 unidades recaerán en el mercado francés. No obstante, la compañía automovilística explicó que está estudiando la posibilidad de introducir este tipo de vehículos en Reino Unido, Alemania y Holanda.

La corporación asiática apuntó que los vehículos híbridos ‘plug-in’ permiten circular en modo eléctrico en recorridos cortos y pasan a funcionar como un híbrido convencional en distancias medias y largas. Sin embargo, estos coches tienen una autonomía mayor que los híbridos tradicionales, así como menores emisiones contaminantes y reducen el consumo de combustible.

El fabricante japonés lanzó en Japón el mes pasado la tercera generación de su híbrido Prius a un precio de 2,05 millones de yenes (14.937 euros), un coste similar a su anterior versión aunque superior a los 1,89 millones de yenes (13.771 euros) de su principal competidor, el Insight de Honda.


TMC to Lease 200 Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles in Japan

TOYOTA MOTOR CORPORATION (TMC) announces it will lease a plug-in hybrid vehicle in Japan in collaboration with local governments selected under the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry’s EV & PHV Towns program1, which aims to promote the widespread use of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid vehicles.

TMC is developing a plug-in hybrid vehicle—based on the third-generation "Prius"— equipped with a lithium-ion battery that can be charged via external power sources such as household electricity. This will be the first time a lithium-ion battery is to be employed in a Toyota vehicle for propulsion. Starting at the end of 2009, TMC plans to lease approximately 200 of the vehicles to designated users such as government ministries, local governments and corporations.

A plug-in hybrid vehicle operates as an electric vehicle when used for short distances and can operate as a conventional hybrid vehicle when used for medium to long-distance trips. This means it can be used regardless of remaining battery power or availability of battery-charging infrastructure in place. Furthermore, plug-in hybrid vehicles are expected to achieve higher fuel efficiency than conventional hybrid vehicles, limit consumption of fossil fuels, reduce CO2 emissions and atmospheric pollution, and, by charging with off-peak electricity, promise a more economical vehicle powering solution.

TMC believes that, in response to the diversification of energy sources, plug-in hybrid vehicles are currently the most suitable environmentally considerate vehicles for widespread use. TMC therefore intends to encourage the marketing of plug-in hybrid vehicles while introducing a total of 500 vehicles globally—primarily to fleet customers—to further use and understanding of the vehicles. TMC will introduce approximately 150 vehicles in the United States, as well as more than 150 vehicles in Europe, including 100 in France. TMC is also considering introducing plug-in hybrid vehicles in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Germany.

TMC has positioned hybrid technologies as core environmentally considerate vehicle technologies and is using them in the development not only of plug-in hybrid vehicles but also electric vehicles and fuel-cell hybrid vehicles. TMC will continue its efforts to achieve sustainable mobility by developing and putting into practical use these next-generation vehicles, which are hoped to contribute to reducing petroleum consumption, reducing CO2 emissions and responding to the diversification of energy sources.

An intensive model program for the introduction and promotion of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid vehicles as well as accelerating the setting up of charging infrastructures and the development of societal awareness and preparedness through the collaboration of the national and local governments, regional businesses and auto manufacturers in Japan. Action plans are expected to be developed this summer by each participating local government, and a master action plan based on the results of each program is expected to be developed at the end of this fiscal year.


Toyota-Panasonic Boosts Hybrid Battery Output

The hybrid battery joint venture between Toyota and Panasonic is raising annual production at its Japanese plants to about a million by next year, officials said Friday.

Panasonic EV Energy Co., 60 percent owned by Toyota Motor Corp. and 40 percent by electronics maker Panasonic Corp., makes batteries for the new Prius hybrid, which has been a hit since rolling out last month, becoming the best-selling vehicle in Japan in May.

The company, based in Kosai, central Japan, already controls 80 percent of the global market in such auto batteries. It is building its third Japanese plant, in Miyazaki, southwestern Japan, which will be running by next year, said Masashi Otani, a general manager.

Officials said battery pack sizes vary with car models, but are counted by using the Prius battery pack as a standard unit. The growth in hybrids has taken off only in recent months.

The company, founded in 1996, the year before the Prius went on sale, took until last year to reach cumulative sales of 2 million battery packs.

Panasonic EV does business with other companies, including Honda Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC. But officials said its business with General Motors Corp. tapered off to zero because of the U.S. automaker’s financial woes.

Panasonic is also acquiring Japanese rival Sanyo Electric Co., and the combination is likely to be a plus, according Eric Lee, a Barclays Capital analyst in Tokyo.

Panasonic through its Toyota joint venture could eventually account for nearly 90 percent of nickel-metal hydride batteries, currently used in Prius cars, and about 35 percent to 40 percent of lithium-ion batteries, planned for Toyota’s plug-in hybrid available in limited numbers later this year, he said a report this week.

"If the Sanyo-Panasonic transaction is completed, the new combined entity could potentially become the most active major Japanese consumer electronics company in automotive battery technology," the report said.

Toyota Managing Officer Koei Saga acknowledged concerns about lithium-ion batteries overheating in laptop computers, which resulted in millions being recalled globally in recent years. "We don’t want the kind of troubles that happened with PCs," he told reporters.

Two teams at Panasonic EV are working on next-generation lithium-ion batteries, and the company will market the product from the team that comes up with a winner, officials said, while declining to go into details.