Electric hybrids the next eco-car



Toyota hybrid Camry

Toyota hybrid Camry

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Plug-in hybrid cars will be the the next boom in eco-vehicles, according to Toyota Australia executive, Greg Gardner.

Speaking at the launch of Toyota's 2008 Sustainability report, Gardner said that plug-in hybrids "are the next most realistic approach using electric energy."

The advantage of a hybrid plugin, Gardner said, is that it abolishes the slow cruising speed of fully electric cars, as "for long-distance travel, the plug-in hybrid operates as a normal hybrid vehicle."

Late in 2009, Toyota will introduce a plug-in hybrid vehicle equipped with a lithium-ion battery, for fleet cars in Japan, the United States and Europe. Mass will come "soon after 2010."

One hurdle in their success will be the need to develop long-lasting batteries. The company says it has dedicated research and development teams working on commercial lithium-ion and nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries.

With the sale of more than 1.5 million hybrid cars around the world - most of those the iconic Prius - Toyota has branded itself as a leader in developing eco-cars.

The company believes their system, the "hybrid synergy drive" is superior to other systems as is charges the car as it's being driven. With this system, Toyota are hedging bets on the type of energy source that will dominate, as it can be rejigged to work with fuel cells, biofuels or electricity, Gardner said.

Toyota Australia president, Max Yasuda stressed that the company is working towards a future without petrol cars.

Toyota plans to expand its production of hybrids to least one million a year, and roll out hybrid versions of all series by 2020.

Next on the agenda is the hybrid Camry, which will be the first Australian-made hybrid. Production starts in 2010.