In the first quarter of this year Toyota passed the 100,000 mark in cumulative sales of hybrid vehicles, car detailing melbourne which combine conventional engines and electric power. The achievement means the Japanese manufacturer, which is the clear industry leader in hybrid sales, is well on the way to its target of annual production of 300,000 hybrid vehicles around 2005.
This approach to reducing the environmental impact of cars is not without its critics. Because they include conventional engines, hybrids still emit carbon dioxide and pollutants. On a practical level, the combination of two technologies means these vehicles are more complex, and currently more costly, than conventional vehicles.
But completely new technology, such as hydrogen fuel, cells are still a long way from commercial production. And all-electric vehicles suffer from a limited range as well as the inconvenience of needing to recharge the battery.
In fact a gasoline-powered hybrid vehicle is actually more efficient overall than an electric car. And although it does still produce harmful emissions, they are much less than conventional engines. In city driving conditions Toyotas Prius travels twice as far per litre of fuel as conventional cars of comparable size and performance, meaning it produces half the carbon dioxide emissions. As a SULEV (Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle), it exceeds both California’s stringent emission requirements and the Euro4 environmental standard.
The Prius went on the market in Japan in late 1997, when it was the world’s first mass-production hybrid. The model debuted in North America and Europe during 2000 and is now sold in more than 20 countries. Last year sales reached almost 30,000.
Unlike some hybrids, in which the conventional engine powers the batteries, which drive the car, Toyota uses a combination of both sources to produce a continuously variable combination of electrical and gasoline power. The electric motor powers start-up and adds power during acceleration, while energy generated during braking and deceleration is captured in the batteries. The engine shuts off automatically when the car stops.
The range has been expanded with a 4-wheel drive minivan version (the Estima) and a mild hybrid saloon which is a simpler and less expensive version of the Prius.
Hybrid technology can be adapted to fuel cell vehicles, and Toyota will start limited marketing of fuel cell hybrid (FCHV) sport utility vehicle (SUV) in Japan and the U.S. around the end of this year, much earlier than originally planned.
Lowering cost and other issues remain, but the company believes that technology has been a solution, and will continue to be.