The president of Toyota North America, Jim Press, announced his company’s plans to develop a hybrid vehicle that will run on batteries charged by a common electrical outlet. For long drives it will be able to use gasoline, or even alternative fuels like ethanol or bio-diesel (made from vegetable scraps or discarded cooking oils). Delivering an impassioned speech at the National Press Club Tuesday, Press highlighted the good news and presented a vision for the future in which we drive cars that actually “clean the air” going coast to coast on a single tank of fuel.
“Today, I believe the time is right to enlist the immense talent and might of the auto industry to help solve some of the key issues resulting from a car-loving world: namely, oil dependency, air pollution, and global warming.
And the good news is, the auto industry is starting to make some positive progress in meeting those challenges. At Toyota, alone, we’re spending an average of $22.7 million PER DAY on research and development.
Through the industry’s use of lighter materials, advanced engine and transmission technology along with cleaner fuels, conventionally powered cars are cleaner today than they’ve ever been. Today’s vehicles are 99 percent cleaner in smog-forming emissions than their counterparts from the 1970s. And today’s light trucks produce fewer smog-forming emissions than cars did in 1993.
In California, more than 20 car models offered by 12 automakers, including our Camry and Prius, are rated Partial Zero Emission Vehicles. They’re not only the cleanest gasoline engines ever produced, they’re built to maintain near zero emissions throughout their entire life on the road.
Today, more than 40 hybrid or alternative fuel vehicles are for sale in the United States and 8 million are on the road. Plus, another 35 models will be introduced in the next 12 months.
I’m extremely proud that Toyota introduced the world’s first mass-produced gas/electric hybrid car, the Prius, nearly 10 years ago. Today’s Prius has the room of a mid-size sedan, delivers about twice the mileage of conventional cars and produces 70% less smog-forming emissions than the average new car today.
It’s been so popular that we can’t keep it in stock. There’s still a two-month wait to get one, nearly 3 years after we started selling the current model.
And Prius was just the beginning. Currently, we sell five Toyota or Lexus hybrids, including a Camry hybrid that will be built at our Kentucky plant. And, early next year we’ll offer a sixth one: the world’s first V-8 hybrid in our flagship Lexus LS sedan.
In total, we’ve sold more than 351,000 hybrids in the United States. It’s a great business for us. We’re making money, saving gas and helping the environment, all at once. (In fact, we’ve sold more U.S. hybrids so far this year than Cadillac, Buick, or Mercedes Benz, has sold cars.)
We estimate that all the hybrids we have sold in America have saved more than 155 million gallons of gas, enough to fill FIVE tanker ships, not to mention eliminating more than 3 BILLION pounds of greenhouse gases.
Even better, hybrid technology can be teamed with every other promising technology to make it even more efficient and fuel-stingy; whether its high-tech gas engines, clean diesels, bio-diesel, ethanol, plug-in hybrids, or hydrogen fuel cells.
Hybrids are the technology of the future. That’s why Toyota is NOT backing off its strong commitment to hybrids. We’re working hard to bring down hybrid premiums significantly by reducing the size of components by up to 75% and costs by half.
Our target is to offer hybrid options throughout our entire lineup of cars and trucks.
And we’re not alone in our confidence about hybrids. Honda has three and plans to add a fourth. Nearly every other automaker — from Hyundai to Porsche — plans to introduce hybrids in the very near future.
A VISION FOR THE FUTURE
We’ll have to help develop ways to produce and distribute a wide array of alternative fuels needed to supplement gasoline. To make this happen, it will take monumental cooperation among all key players: automakers, oil companies, suppliers, labor, government, educators, NGOs, communities, and other industries.
I know all of these thorny issues seem daunting at first glance, but the time is right and the stakes are too high for us to ignore them.
Our customers, readers, viewers, and constituents want us — and expect us — to come together for the greater good of society. We must heed that call.
And I think it starts with the auto industry being more proactive. It’s time for us to stop being the “against” industry… and to come out strong “for” something important, like a better earth and a better quality of life.
Automakers need to work with government to set reasonable goals to improve fuel economy standards and reduce greenhouse gases in a way that doesn’t severely damage the health of one of America’s most vital industries. Reasonable people may disagree, but they can also compromise, find common ground, and move forward.
Our global president, Katsuaki Watanabe, recently challenged all of us to redouble our efforts to contribute to society in our work. He told of us of his dream to create cars of the future that can travel across the United States on one tank of fuel and clean the air while they are being driven.
That’s what I will be working on in the future, with the full backing of a company founded by an inventor who wanted to help people and contribute to a better world.
Today, I’m happy to announce two key American developments from Toyota that have been highly anticipated.
First, Toyota is strongly considering introducing a flex-fuel vehicle program in the United States in the near term. We’re already developing vehicles that can operate in ethanol-rich Brazil and we’re optimistic that we can offer similar vehicles to American consumers.
And, second, we are pursuing a “plug-in” hybrid vehicle that can travel greater distances without using its gas engine, conserving more oil AND slicing smog and greenhouse gases to nearly imperceptible levels.
Both projects will help to solve some of the key issues facing society, as well as encourage other automakers to keep moving forward.
I hope I’ve helped re-kindle some of that unbridled spirit of optimism, determination, and cooperation I spoke of earlier. At Toyota, we pledge to do our part to lend a hand and to work hard with the rest of the world to help create real solutions to the problems we all face.