Toyota unveiling electric car in Detroit

DETROIT: Toyota Motor Corp. said Saturday it is confirming plans to have an all-electric vehicle on U.S. roads by 2012 by introducing an ultra-compact battery-powered concept car at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Toyota calls the FT-EV, based on the ultra-compact iQ model on sale in Japan, an “urban dweller” with a range of 50 miles. Although there’s no guarantee it will go into production in its current form, it illustrates the company’s product strategies.

“Last summer’s $4-a-gallon gasoline was no anomaly,” said Irv Miller, vice president of Toyota Motor Sales USA. “It was a brief glimpse of our future. We must address the inevitability of peak oil by developing vehicles powered by alternatives to liquid-oil fuel.”

The FT-EV marks Toyota’s deepest foray yet into non-gasoline vehicles and comes as a challenge to competitors like General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC, which are rushing to roll out alternatives to gasoline cars.

GM says it plans to have the highly anticipated Chevrolet Volt in showrooms by 2010. The rechargeable gas-electric car is expected to travel 40 miles on electricity alone, then a gasoline engine kicks in to extend its range.

Chrysler, meanwhile, unveiled three electric car prototypes last year – a Dodge sports car, a Jeep Wrangler and a Chrysler minivan, and said it plans to put one of the three on sale next year.

In addition to the FT-EV, Toyota said it is expanding its offering of hybrid cars by launching as many as 10 new hybrid models by early next decade in markets around the world. It also said it will start global delivery of 500 Toyota Prius plug-in hybrids powered by lithium-ion batteries later this year, instead of in 2010 as originally planned. Of those, 150 will go to U.S. lease and fleet customers.

Hybrids like the Prius currently run on heavier, weaker nickel-metal hydride batteries, and they recharge through energy captured from the vehicle’s braking.

Toyota said electric vehicles like the FT-EV and new smaller vehicles like the iQ will be a key component of the Japanese automaker’s environmentally conscious strategy, but the conventional gas-electric hybrid, like the Prius, is considered the company’s long-term core powertrain technology.

Toyota is set to unveil its 2010 Prius hybrid and a Lexus hybrid called the HS250h at the Detroit auto show, which starts Sunday with three days of media previews. The show opens to the public Jan. 17-25.

Source: The Post



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