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Private Responses to "Did Toyota Blunder" Posting & Blog
Feb 13, 2006 (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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Last Friday I posted the transcript of the NPR "All Things Considered" report on PHEVs and CalCars that included controversial comments by a Toyota spokesperson:­group/­calcars-news/­message/­286

Then at the CalCars blog, Power Plugs and People, I posted my views on what it all meant: "Did Toyota Blunder Today at NPR?­blogs/­power/­did-toyota-blunder Since then I've received several notable private messages, and the responses are worth sharing publicly.

Toyota media spokespeople were busy answering reporters' and individuals' calls on Friday. We've received reports of their additional "off-the-record" comments. One summarized: "Toyota is working into solving the many issues that must first be addressed to bring PHEV to the mass market, including: 1. battery technology; 2. cost; 3. regulatory EPA approval."

We had hoped to see these objections abandoned by now -- see our page where we track Toyota's and other automakers' evolving responses­carmakers.html. Here are very measured, though quick, responses.

1. Battery technology: We invite Toyota to engage this issue in an generous, practical way. It's in the public interest to get (for instance) several hundred PHEVs on the road to begin serious evaluations. If batteries from companies in which Toyota has a significant equity stake (Panasonic EV Energy/Fuji) are not yet ready, might the company consider using others? For instance: Saft and Varta batteries DaimlerChrysler has included in its PHEV commercial van prototype, components from members of the Plug-In Hybrid Consortium -- or those from Valence used by EDrive Systems or from Electro Energy used by CalCars in our prototype under development. We expect any of these companies will independently warranty their batteries -- just as do tire manufacturers for all cars sold in the U.S.

2. Cost: Let's waste no time on that one: let the market decide. People are eager to buy EDrive Systems' Prius conversions. We'd be surprised if Toyota's were priced higher -- but if so, let's see what happens. For instance, Toyota could produce limited numbers for sale to fleets at its initial price point, with a pledge, if and when are in mass production at a lower price, to credit the difference toward future sales.

3. Regulatory EPA approval. Given the President's Advanced Energy Initiative, enormous support in Congress, and widespread interest in government agencies, steps to expedite approval for limited numbers of vehicles should be more than possible. And the California Air Resources Board has repeatedly assured us they will fully cooperate with OEMs seeking approval for a PHEV.

CalCars and others working to promote PHEVs (see­partners.html are by no means focused only on Toyota. From a technical standpoint, Toyota could introduce PHEV versions of their current hybrids in months, should they choose to do so. Yet Toyota might not be the first to agree to build passenger PHEVs. We're doing all we can to encourage other automakers to leap into the lead on innovation.

All the time. On that NPR show, our Tech Lead Ron Gremban called the Prius "a really good mass-produced car." We are loyal Toyota customers -- we just want them to make even better cars! We've told Toyota representatives and the dealers from whom we bought our Priuses and get service that we know for certain one thing about many of their customers. Dozens have told us that hearing us praise Toyota's hybrids became their personal tipping point in convincing them to buy one. We suspect they speak for hundreds more. On a personal level, looking at the available options, my family is considering upgrading from our '98 Camry to an '07 Camry Hybrid (even though it's a disappointing step backward in technology from our Prius) --- unless we buy a Ford Escape Hybrid.

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