Toyota Motor Corporation Chairman, Takeshi Uchiyamada, told an audience at the Economic Club of Washington, D.C, this week, that hybrid vehicles have key advantages that make them popular with consumers and that they will play a greater role in the future development of automotive propulsion systems than is widely recognized.
"Some people say hybrid vehicles such as the Prius are only a bridge to the future. But we think it could be a long bridge and a very sturdy one," Uchiyamada said. "There are many more gains we can achieve with hybrids."
He confirmed that Toyota is now working on the fourth generation of the Prius. "In each of the previous moves to a new generation, we achieved a 10% increase in (fuel economy)," he said. "We are committed to beating that record this time."
The combined NRCanada fuel consumption rating of the current Toyota Prius is 3.8 L/100 km.
As of March, 2013, Toyota had sold 5 million hybrid vehicles around the world cumulatively, since the Prius was introduced in Japan in 1997. The Prius itself topped 3 million global sales in June.
But the auto industry as a whole will need to strive even harder to achieve the ambitious fuel consumption standards set by the U.S. and Canadian governments going forward and Uchiyamada sees greater use of hybrid technology by all players as the way to achieve those goals.
"Today I wish to call on the industry to sell 5 million hybrids in the U.S. by the end of 2016," he said. "It’s only when we put ourselves under the same kind of intense pressure we faced in developing the Prius that we can achieve great goals. That’s what it takes. I want our industry to achieve this goal."
Looking further into the future, Uchiyamada said he is particularly excited by a new hydrogen fuel cell vehicle the company is developing. Like battery-electrics, fuel cell vehicles have zero tail pipe emissions but they don't have the driving range and charging time constraints that electric vehicles have.
"Perhaps 15 years from now, we can meet again here in Washington and we will know exactly which system has prevailed," he added.