[THE INVESTOR] A Toyota Motor executive on June 21 ruled out the possibility of rolling out hybrid models powered by diesel engines in the near future.
“Diesel engine is much more expensive than gasoline. The hybrid system which requires sophisticated technology is also costly,” Shizuo Abe, executive general manger at Toyota, told reporters at a forum in Seoul.
“When combining the two systems together, the price has to go up. Therefore, it will take some time before finding the right solution to cut costs to meet customer demand.”
Since launching the first mass-produced hybrid vehicle Prius in 1997, Toyota has spearheaded the development and expansion of hybrid vehicles -- most commonly referring to petroleum-electric hybrid.
Toyota has developed hybrid versions for about 40 of its models and sold a total of 10 million vehicles globally as of January. Despite its leadership, the auto giant has been shying away from rolling out hybrid cars with diesel powertrain.
The executive said Toyota is confident that hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles are the future of green cars, and not merely a stepping-stone to fully electric vehicles.
“Toyota’s upcoming green cars will be mostly hybrid or plug-in hybrid vehicles,” Abe said, adding they are the most sensible green car options for the future. “At the moment, 15 percent of all Toyota car models are equipped with a hybrid system. But Toyota hopes to expand the system to all its models going forward.”
He reasoned the costly charging infrastructure is still the major challenge before fully electric cars become widespread. “To allow long-distance travels, high-speed charging stations need to be installed, just like what Tesla is doing. But they are very expensive and do not fit into regular households,” he said. “Meanwhile, PHEV, as well as fuel cell electric vehicle, can be charged easily at home and offices, making them a more feasible option.”
But that doesn’t mean Toyota is scraping its electric vehicles plans for good, said Abe.
“Toyota is mulling the right timing to provide electric vehicles, considering what kind of cars will be most realistic for our consumers,” he said. “At the end of the day, it is up to customers on what type of green cars will become major players in the market. We are developing all dimensions of technology to be ready for what consumers want.”
By Ahn Sung-mi (firstname.lastname@example.org)