Toyota is promising two new hybrid vehicles and the start of lithium-ion battery production next year.
The two hybrids–one badged a Toyota, the other a Lexus–will debut at the Detroit auto show and come on top of the third-generation Prius car, also due in 2009.
Toyota didn’t give further details about the upcoming vehicles. But Masatami Takimoto, executive vice president in charge of r&d, said the Toyota will be larger than the Prius.
“It’s a totally new car,” Takimoto said in Tokyo.
For the redesigned Prius, Toyota will stick with the current generation’s nickel-metal hydride batteries. The long-awaited lithium-ion batteries, light in weight and high in power, will debut in Toyota’s first plug-in hybrid, due in 2010, he said.
Panasonic EV Energy Co., the joint venture that makes Toyota’s hybrid vehicle batteries, will start making the lithium-ion batteries in 2009, Takimoto said. Panasonic EV is building the production line at its main plant in Shizuoka, southwest of Tokyo.
Initial output will test quality consistency. Mass production will begin in 2010.
Toyota outlined the plans as part of a sweeping environmental blueprint that touched on sustainable r&d, manufacturing and social responsibility.
The move comes as rivals Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. beef up their own green car programs. Honda announced last month that it will launch four hybrid vehicles by 2015.
That same week, Nissan said it will start mass-producing lithium-ion batteries next year.
Lithium-ion batteries are seen as a key to jump-starting the market for low-emissions gasoline-electric hybrid and pure electric vehicles. They are lighter and more powerful than the nickel-metal hydride batteries now used in hybrids.
Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe said he already is thinking beyond lithium.
To that end, the automaker is setting up a battery research department this month to develop a post-lithium-ion battery with even better performance, he said.
Takimoto said the department will start with 50 people and double the staffing in two years. Possible chemistries for the new batteries include metal-air batteries, he said.
Toyota is racing to crank up battery production so it can meet its goal of selling 1 million hybrid vehicles a year in the early 2010s. A shortage of batteries is one reason Toyota hasn’t been able to boost production of the Prius to meet booming global demand.
Among Toyota’s other green initiatives:
— New 1.3-liter and 2.5-liter gasoline engines featuring stop-start technology, due this year.
— A new, highly efficient, compact six-speed manual transmission, arriving in the fall.
— Cutting carbon dioxide emissions from factories to 35 percent of 2001 levels by 2010.