Toyota Aims for the Green

Carmaker Toyota plans to manufacture leaner, greener vehicles that rely on electricity and ethanol as power sources, company president Katsuaki Watanabe recently announced. The company, whose United States fleet fuel efficiency is second only to Honda’s, plans to double the gas-electric hybrid models it offers (to 14) by early next decade. Toyota also intends to further research so-called plug-in hybrids, which pair current hybrid gas-electric drive trains with the added ability to charge the batteries from standard electric sockets, leading to electric-only power for local commutes.

Katsuaki Watanabe, president of Toyota, has announced a greener future for the influential automaker.

Greg Hanssen, vice president of Energy Control Systems Engineering, which currently is working on plug-in conversion kits for the Toyota Prius, says the news surprises him. “I always thought battery costs would have to come down a lot more, and fuel prices would have to go up a lot more, for this to click with Toyota,” he says. “So maybe this means they think both are going to happen sooner than later.”

Despite the green talk, though, Toyota SUVs and trucks have pushed the company’s fuel efficiency down, says Roland Hwang, vehicle program director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “They’re behind where they were in 1985,” says Hwang.

Toyota also plans to introduce cars that can burn an ethanol-gasoline mix, an option already offered by GM. However, most environmentalists think the jury is still out on ethanol’s potential as a truly green fuel, given looming questions of supply and production.


For more information on plug-in hybrids and other earth-friendly cars, see