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Toyota Tries To Lower Expectations On Plug-In Hybrids, Mark Fields Asks For Handout To Build Them

Illustration for article titled Toyota Tries To Lower Expectations On Plug-In Hybrids, Mark Fields Asks For Handout To Build Them

Toyota appears to be starting the expectations-management game for its upcoming plug-in hybrid vehicles after being stung in the past by complaints from Prius owners of lower-than-advertised mileage. Bill Reinert, national manager of Toyota U.S.A's advanced technology group, yesterday told a Brookings Institution/Google conference panel, "when we see the (claims of) 100 mile-per-gallon stuff, not everybody's going to get 100 miles per gallon." Mark "The Mullet" Fields, Ford Motor Co. president for the Americas, made what we think was the most important point to be made at the conference — that plug-ins need to be a "national priority." However, that message was lost when he next asked for a government handout, saying "significant government funding is needed for development of domestic production of advanced batteries and for retooling of plants." Sorry Mark, John McCain doesn't have any money to hand out yet — even if your battery can go 100 miles per charge.

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That said, we commend the Washington Conference on Plug-Ins for bringing together the top automotive, utility and technology companies to discuss the challenges facing plug-in hybrid vehicles. There's a real need for some kind of governmental help on making them a reality. However, we'd disagree with Fields in his assessment of what form that help should take. What we really need is not the development of domestic production, but the development of domestic R&D. The auto industry needs monies centralized in a Manhattan Project-like plan to develop real battery technology for the entire industry. But the chances of that happening can be summed up in the words of Jalopnik Understatement award-winner Tom Kuhn, president of the Edison Electric Institute, who said "people in this country are mad." [Automotive News (Sub. Req.)]

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@Ray Wert: Then Valence (www.valence.com)

must not exist. But the truth is that advanced and long life Li-Ion

batteries do exist. And Valence is one of the companies that sells them

right now.

For improving the batteries themselves... I have to wonder if

anything Ford invents would be better than automotive-grade

lithium-phosphate batteries available from a company like Valence.

And then there's the Tesla factor... which uses commodity grade AA

Lithium batteries and that in turn achieves a 200+ mile range. The

batteries Tesla used are not the absolute cutting edge.

Yeah the government should fund battery research. But the money

should go to companies that actually specialize in making batteries and

not Ford.

The only thing for Ford to do is integrate plug-in capability. And that has already been invented.

So my point is that on this issue, Ford should be entitled to exactly ZERO dollars of government funding.

It would make way more sense to direct that funding to an actual battery manufacturer... as long as it isn't Cobasys.

For plug-in hybrid capability, the battery tech we have now is sufficient.

But if we're talking about making pure electrics, then I'd say we

still have a way to go before we can have an electric car that is as

popular as the Prius currently is.