Toyota announced today plans to show off a CNG Camry Hybrid concept at the LA Auto Show in November. For those not in the exclusive "T. Boone Pickens Fan Club," CNG stands for "Compressed Natural Gas." Although details are sparse on what to expect in LA, the press release below the jump does provide lots of memories of Toyota's failed 1999 CNG Camry experiment, undertaken during the heyday of the SUV when cheap gas was plentiful. Toyota Corporate Communicator Irv Miller contrasted the 1999 market with current conditions favoring low emissions and high economy while also throwing a bone to fuel-cell advocates, saying "an expanded retail-friendly CNG infrastructure could be seen as a model for future hydrogen infrastructure." Plus, lazy Americans wouldn't have to learn a new term for "filling up the gas tank." Press release below.
TOYOTA TO DISPLAY CNG-POWERED CAMRY-HYBRID CONCEPT AT 2008 LOS ANGELES AUTO SHOW PORTLAND, Ore., Sept. 24, 2008 – Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), U.S.A., Inc., announced here today at its Sustainable Mobility Seminar that it will display a compressed natural gas (CNG) Camry Hybrid concept vehicle at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November. "With the combination of plentiful long-term supplies in North America, improved and more efficient recovery methods, favorable pricing and clean-burn/low emissions characteristics, CNG has become a prime energy-source for the future," said Irv Miller, group vice president, TMS Corporate Communications. "With this concept, we are confirming our interest in pursuing CNG within our broad and comprehensive R&D scope." In 1999 Toyota marketed a CNG-powered four-cylinder Camry to fleet customers in California. However, in an era of relatively cheap gasoline, customers were not attracted to a vehicle that required special refueling techniques and a limited refueling infrastructure and the program was discontinued a year later. Currently, there are only about 1,000 CNG refueling stations nationwide, with less than half open to the public. The benefits of CNG are currently being amplified by rapidly changing market conditions and an increase in consumer environmental awareness. At the same time its drawbacks are being mitigated by a growing awareness that advanced technologies will require investment in appropriate infrastructure. The U.S. CNG pipeline system is an approximately 1.8 million mile network and expanding. "Natural gas," adds Miller, "and an expanded retail-friendly CNG infrastructure could be seen as a model for future hydrogen infrastructure."[Toyota]