Image courtesy of Mike Weston via flickr
So now we have a date: In a move that will place it in direct competition with GM - whose much-touted plug-in, the Volt, is set to be released that year - Toyota has just announced that it plans on building its first plug-in hybrid by 2010.
Katsuaki Watanabe, the Japanese carmaker's president, also announced that his company would be rolling out a new hybrid line and one exclusive for the Lexus division by 2009. The plug-in hybrids will first be made available to Toyota's commercial customers - mostly government agencies and businesses; he didn't reveal the company's plans for a mass market rollout. Diesel engines for the Tundra and Sequoia will be offered "in the near future," Watanabe also said. The carmaker announced a few months ago that it was testing PHEVs on public roads in Japan and in France; it also gave away several prototype versions to researchers at UC Irvine and UC Berkeley.
The test PHEV - basically a souped-up Prius running on 2 nickel-metal hydride batteries (the 2010 PHEV will run on lithium-ion batteries) - gets almost 100 miles a gallon in electric mode; a charge takes about 4 hours - enough for it to run only about 7 miles. GM has claimed that the Volt will be able to go 40 miles with a single, 6-hour charge.