PLUG OK license plate
Roundup/update: what the auto industry says about plug-in hybrids
Aug 17, 2005 (From the CalCars-News archive)
This posting originally appeared at CalCars-News, our newsletter of breaking CalCars and plug-in hybrid news. View the original posting here.
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We update this compendium periodically, as industry representatives are quoted in news stories, etc. The comments for each OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) are sequential: earliest first. So far, of course, it's still mostly Toyota, but that will change....



  • Nick Cappa, manager of advanced technology communications: "It's just an idea program," (AUTOMOTIVE NEWS)
  • "a great opportunity to develop the vehicles we foresee in the future." (BUSINESS WEEK)
  • "This is part of a small program investigating these technologies." (NYTIMES)
  • "In the end it should be viable and economic for our customers." Rolf Bartke, head of the Mercedes-Benz van division (TIME)


  • Gerhard Schmidt, VP of Research and Advanced Engineering: "We are looking at a range of potential alternative fuel solutions to address the issues around eliminating our dependence on fossil fuels and global warming - and it may include a plug-in hybrid. (CORRESPONDENCE TO AN INDIVIDUAL)

Honda and Ford did not return calls for comment (TORONTO STAR)


  • Cindy Knight, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A: "We're exploring every avenue" for reducing reliance on petroleum, she says. (AUTOMOTIVE NEWS)
  • David Hermance, Toyota's executive engineer for environmental engineering: "We keep looking at the concept, and at some point it might be feasible, but it isn't there yet," (BUSINESS WEEK)
  • "They say this is the next great thing, but it just isn't" ..."The electric utilities really want to sell electricity and they want to sell it to the transportation sector because that expands their market. They have an agenda." ...And Mr. Hermance of Toyota said that batteries today were not durable enough to handle the wide range of charging up and charging down that a plug-in hybrid would need, calling that the most damaging thing you can do to a battery .... Mr. Hermance said the feature [EV Button] was disabled in Priuses sold in the United States because of complications it would have created in emissions-testing rules. (NY TIMES)
------- MORE RECENTLY (as PHEVs and PRIUS+ have gotten considerable attention):
  • Ed LaRoque, National Manager for Advanced Technology Vehicles with Toyota Motor Sales, asked at sessions of the Clean Cities Conference (May 2005), "Will your hybrids be able to plug in to recharge for local travel?,"replied, "We're listening."
  • "Customers," says Ed LaRocque, "are not telling us plug-in hybrids are something they'd like to see at no cost, let alone what we estimate would be an additional $15,000." (TIME MAGAZINE)
  • ``The situation is evolving,'' said Cindy Knight, a Toyota spokeswoman in Southern California. ``We're studying the matter, and keeping a careful eye on the projects happening around California.''(SJ MERCURY NEWS)
  • Toyota spokeswoman Cindy Knight said, "We are watching [plug-in designs] with interest. It is probably within the range of solutions we would consider" eventually as an alternative power plant design. (LA TIMES)
  • Toyota spokeswoman Cindy Knight warned that EDrive's modifications will void the Prius' power train warranty, and said the company is "dubious" about a pluggable Prius. "Right now, we don't see this as commercially viable," she said. "We think there need to be breaktrhoughs in battery technology to make it commercially viable." (WIRED.COM)
  • "So you have a higher up-front cost, a heavier vehicle that gets less fuel economy with less performance, and the prospect of replacing the battery during [the car's] life," he says....Toyota's Hermance insists that, barring a spectacular breakthrough in battery chemistry, the cost of nickel-metal hydride batteries will remain around $1100/kWh for the foreseeable future. He concedes that the Prius's nickel-metal hydride battery packs have become significantly cheaper since Toyota began producing the car for the Japanese market in late 1997--power densities have gone up, allowing the car to get the same acceleration with a smaller battery pack. But energy density hasn't really improved, so energy storage remains as expensive as ever. (IEEE SPECTRUM)
  • Hermance says that while the PHEV concept has merit, it won't work with the current generation of lithium-ion batteries, which, while powerful, are both too expensive and temperamental for use in mass-production cars. Depending on their chemistry, lithium-ion batteries tend to get really hot -- thermal runaway, it's called—and, as the military well knows, to ignite. "The betting line of developers is that a lithium-ion battery of sufficient cost, durability and safety is three to five years away."...The guerrilla interest in PHEVs puts Toyota in an unfamiliar posture: on the defensive. "We're getting a lot of pressure from the public," says Cindy Knight, a company spokesperson. "We've shown that we have the energy chops to do it, so people say, 'Why don't we do it?'" (LA TIMES)
  • "Almost 60 per cent of U.S. electricity is generated by burning coal — so (we're) not sure plugging in cars in the end offers very much environmental benefit," the company says, adding that it may be "trading one form of emissions for another." (TORONTO STAR)
  • But Toyota Motor Corp. officials who initially frowned on people altering their cars now say they may be able to learn from them. "They're like the hot rodders of yesterday who did everything to soup up their cars. It was all about horsepower and bling-bling, lots of chrome and accessories," said Cindy Knight, a Toyota spokeswoman. "Maybe the hot rodders of tomorrow are the people who want to get in there and see what they can do about increasing fuel economy." (ASSOCIATED PRESS) ------- OFFICIAL STATEMENT
  • Like you, we at Toyota are very interested in this technology. It is something we are studying for the future as one avenue to adding diversity to the transportation energy mix. Plug-in hybrids can further reduce petroleum consumption, improve fuel economy, possibly ease our dependence on foreign oil and potentially lower greenhouse gas emissions. That said, we also recognize that there are limitations to plug-in hybrids. As you well know, the true environmental impact of a plug-in depends on the source of the electrical charge. Coal-burning power plants do not lessen the greenhouse gas production and criteria pollutants increase. Secondly, to create a vehicle that meets consumers' needs, a breakthrough in battery technology in regard to capacity, durability and cost, is necessary. Outside experts predict this isn't likely to happen this decade.... (IRV MILLER, GROUP VP, CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS, TOYOTA MOTOR SALES, INDIVIDUAL COMMUNICATION -- full text at­group/­calcars-news/­message/­106)
  • "I think at some point you'll even have a button you can pick, mileage versus performance, because you're managing the system" said Jim Press, president and COO of Toyota Motor Sales USA, to a conference of auto executives (while announcing the he expected a quarter of US auto sales to be hybrids within 10 years): (NY TIMES)
  • "We have a vision of the driver being able to hook up their laptop to a port to alter that profile and get the driving characteristics that they want," said Cindy Knight, spokesperson for Toyota in Torrance, California. "That's an idea for the future. Right now it takes a horde of technicians to do that." (NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC)
  • While hot rodders used to soup up their engines and pour on the chrome, they're now tinkering with computers to maximize their fuel mileage. It's a whole new passion for auto enthusiasts. We share that spirit of making the most cost-effective and most environmentally responsible vehicles possible. (IRV MILLER, ID ABOVE)

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