Toyota's executive vice president in charge of R&D, Masatami Takimoto, told Automotive News the new Toyota will be larger than the new Prius, which will also debut in 2009. "It's a totally new car," he said. The third-generation Prius will keep using nickel-metal hydride batteries, while the longer-lasting, more powerful lithium-ion batteries are to debut in the automaker's first plug-in hybrid to be released in 2010, around the same time as its sole competitor from GM, the Chevrolet Volt.
At the same time, Takimoto revealed the Panasonic EV Energy Co. venture will begin building an initial batch of lithium-ion batteries next year, set to test quality consistency, with mass production commencing in 2010.
In the same press conference, Toyota president Katsuaki Watanabe announced the automaker is setting up a 50-person battery research department that will be charged with developing newer batteries that will outperform the lithium-ion design. The staff may be doubled in as little as two years, and the new design could be metal-air.
Other 'green' measures coming from Toyota will include the launch of 1.3- and 2.5-liter gas engines with stop-start technology to cut down on idling, which are due for release later this year. They may or may not be matched with an ultra-efficient and small six-speed manual, slated for a fall release. At the industrial level, Toyota vows to cut the carbon dioxide emissions its factories produce by 35 percent compared to 2001's levels by 2010.