Update: Toyota Introduces the Yaris HSD Hybrid Concept
Like many of our commenters, I was very excited when Reuters reported that Toyota was readying a Yaris-based low-cost hybrid. Finally a full hybrid that is also small and inexpensive! But UK-based Autocar is reporting that a source at Toyota denies this (more details below). Who should we trust? Did Asahi have it right and Toyota denies it because the project hasn't officially been announced and they don't want their competitors to know, or is Autocar right and will we have to wait a while longer for a Yaris-based hybrid?
The Japanese firm plans to have a hybrid option available in every model by 2020, but the efficiency of small engines means a full Prius-style hybrid system is unlikely to feature in small cars like the Yaris in the near future, a Toyota source told Autocar.
"Toyota has no plans at present to build a Yaris hybrid in France or anywhere else," said the source. "The hybrid system we have works well in the bigger cars like the Lexus as it helps to cut CO2 emissions and improve fuel economy next to its competitors.
"But cars like the Yaris are already efficient and the system would be difficult to implement. Any gains would be marginal."
I'm not sure I quite agree with this. The Yaris is mostly driven in urban areas, and there the HSD hybrid drivetrain is at its best. It could not doubt improve MPG more than "marginally". Even if the battery pack is smaller than the battery pack in the Prius, the lower weight of the car would mean that electric range wouldn't be reduced too severely. And the extra torque from the electric motor could allow downsizing the gas engine (maybe even under 1-liter), while the stop-start capability would make a big difference in stop & go traffic.
The improvement might be smaller on the highway, but with low rolling resistance tires, some aerodynamic tweaks, and a CVT transmission with a 'long' max ratio, it could still do well.
Could Toyota be afraid that its MPG leader would be a small, less profitable car than the Prius? Maybe that has something to do with it...
Maybe Not a Yaris Hybrid, But Something Very Similar Instead...
The story from Asahi/Reuters mentioned that the Yaris-based hybrid would use the "platform and engine" of the Yaris, but it didn't say specifically that it would be a Yaris per se. Now that automakers know that dedicated hybrids sell better than hybrid versions of regular cars (Civic hybrid vs. Prius), it wouldn't be surprising if when Toyota decides to make a hybrid Yaris it changed the appearance of the vehicle and branded it as a different model.
Until Toyota announces something officially, it's hard to be 100% certain about which of these sources to trust. Right now it would seem that Autocar's story is probably a bit more trustworthy, but I wouldn't
More Hybrid Cars & Trucks
Toyota to Sell a Yaris-Based Hybrid for Around $15.7k in Late 2011
FedEx Converts 92 Delivery Trucks to Diesel Hybrids with Lithium-Ion Batteries
Japan Passes US and Becomes Biggest Market for Hybrid Cars