May, 2010 browsing by month



Sunday, May 30th, 2010

Share Off-Road Trail Experiences With Toyota FJ, Tacoma, 4Runner Trail Tracker App For iPhone

Friday, May 28th, 2010

Trail Tracker is an easy-to-use GPS enabled app that makes it easier for Toyota FJ, 4Runner, and Tacoma off-roaders to share their favorite trails. The Trail Tracker App for iPhone™ is available now for free in the App Store.1005_atvp_01_ih+free_gps_enabled_toyota_trail_tracker_app_for_iphone+iphone

The Trail Tracker iPhone App allows trail enthusiasts to quickly find off-road trails and download detailed trail information such as trail maps, rating, distance, duration, elevation gain/loss and photos. You can also browse trails, learn about trail history and access insider trail tips. Or you can follow, connect with and learn about other Trail Tracker users from all over the country. The Toyota Trail Tracker also lets users share personal trail experiences by uploading trail locations, maps, notes and photos to

The Trail Tracker App for iPhone can be downloaded from iTunes or directly to your iPhone at:


Thursday, May 27th, 2010
Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) doesn’t really call it a “Virtual Crash Dummy”, but has announced that the latest version of its THUMS1 virtual human model allows detailed analysis of internal-organ injuries caused by automobile collisions.THUMS
“THUMS” – Total HUman Model for Safety, is a humanoid FE model that can be used to investigate the human body subjected to impact loads. The THUMS model represents a 50 percentile American male in seating position. Human models of different sizes and positions are in preparation.The THUMS model has been developed by Toyota Central R&D, Toyota System Research, and Toyota Motor Company in cooperation with universities and other partners.
THUMS Version 4, of an adult male of average build, adds detailed models of internal organs to the previous version’s models of bones and the brain, enabling analysis of injuries to a wider range of internal organs. Internal organs are particularly vulnerable during collisions, with injuries to them accounting for approximately half of all sustained during automobile collisions. 
To develop Version 4, TMC worked with outside research institutes including universities and utilized a high-precision computed tomography (CT) scanner to make detailed measurements of the internal structure of the human body. By creating precise models of various internal organs, as well as the positions of and relations between those organs, TMC created a virtual human model containing approximately 14 times more information than the previous version. As a result, for analysis of internal injuries, Version 4 can simulate in greater detail how, during a collision, areas of the torso become deformed and internal organs are damaged.

TMC intends to continue to use THUMS for analyzing internal injuries resulting from automobile collisions, applying the results to developing and improving safety devices such as seatbelts and airbags. TMC also plans to add models of a small female and a large male to its virtual-human-model line-up, to enable simulation of a wider range of accident situations.

Toyota Technical Development Corporation, a TMC subsidiary, plans to begin selling THUMS Version 4 in the autumn of 2010.

The body is modelled by considering the shape of individual bones, discretized ligaments and tendons represent the human anatomy perfectly. The model has been validated extensively with cadaver tests and shows a good correlation in different front and side impact scenarios.


Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

Ivan Stewart, not a Rock Star, but a legendary off-road racer known as the Ironman, was driving flat-out at triple-digit speeds, while whipping up a blast of pale-beige dust half a mile long behind the vehicle racing across El Diablo Dry Lake. He was at the wheel of a new 1984 Toyota 4Runner and, man, everyone that saw that wanted one.

This was in Baja California in 1984. The 4Runner looked sharp, and a lot of people seemed to agree. Toyota went on to sell more than 1.8 million 4Runners.4runner trail

Fast forward 2010. Toyota has brought out what it considers the fifth generation of the 4Runner, which has changed over the years into a substantial all-terrain Rock Star vehicle.

The new 4Runner is supremely competent, particularly when equipped for off-roading. A big body-on-frame sport utility, it arrives in a market that has begun to ignore, or even scorn, truck-based S.U.V.’s. It no longer offers a V-8 engine — no great loss, but an omission that might turn away a few customers.

Timing of its introduction coincided with a period of uncharacteristically troubling news about Toyota; alleged reports of unintended acceleration; braking problems with the new Prius, a series of recalls all blown way out of proportion by a media with shall we say ulterior motives…

The 4Runner has not been implicated in these controversies — it even passed the emergency handling test that caused Consumer Reports to issue a “don’t buy” warning recently for a related vehicle, the Lexus GX 460.

The 4Runner’s upward progression over 26 years serves as a reminder of Toyota’s roots,… dependable and, as it turned out, nearly indestructible. By the late 1990’s, they seemed to be everywhere.

That first 4Runner of 1984 was essentially one of these, little more than a small Toyota pickup with a back seat and an integrated camper shell. The latest one is brawny, laden with features and capable of mind-boggling maneuvers. It also comes with a well-earned reputation as a “Baja tough” S.U.V. The latest proof came when a 2010 4Runner won its class in the Baja 1000 off-road race last November.

After driving all the trim levels now offered — SR5, Limited and the new Trail model, any driver with an appetite and only a morsel of off-road skill could contend for Baja trophies. The Trail, in particular, seems to regard nasty terrain with an attitude of the Big Bad Wolf: “All the better to eat you up!”

The 4Runner’s ladder-type frame, made of thick-gauge steel, is strong as a jail cell. The front suspension is a double-wishbone with coil-over shock absorbers; the rear is a 4-link supporting a solid axle on coil springs.

The S.U.V. is generally unflappable when the going gets rough. If you tackle a diabolical washboard surface at 35 m.p.h. — “getting on top of it,” the racers say — it will dance across as effortlessly as Fred Astaire.

The Trail’s list of standard off-road-specific features goes on and on, including electronic locking rear differential, A-TRAC active traction control, Multi-Terrain Select and Crawl Control.

  • The Crawl and Multi-Terrain Select features — these are preprogrammed throttle, brake and wheel traction settings — will walk the vehicle up, down, around and through nail-biting inclines, guttural raucous mud and axle-swallowing sand, all without added drama.
  • The optional Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System disengages the antiroll bars and loosens up the suspension settings so the wheels have more articulation (up and down movement) so the vehicle can tackle refrigerator-size obstacles.
  • The 4Runner’s rock-crawling capability seems to be limited only by its 9.6-inch ground clearance and 33-degree approach angle.
  • When rolling on the highway, you are unlikely to forget that the 4Runner is essentially a truck. On poorly maintained concrete roads the ride can get bouncy, and the chassis shivers on the worst expansion joints. But the steering is true, its balance is precise and its tracking is unerring. It is a snap to tow up to 5,000 pounds.

The old 4Runner’s optional V-8, an inefficient 4.7-liter that added too much weight and wasn’t particularly powerful with a drinking problem has been eliminated.

Now, most 4Runners come with a 4-liter V-6 that generates 270 horsepower — 10 more than the old V-8 — and has more torque for towing. Fuel economy for the V-6 4×4 has improved to 17 in town and 22 highway from 16/20 last year (and 14/17 for the defunct V-8). This more modern V-6 weighs less than the old V-8. Everybody should be happy even though some enthusiasts are grumbling on the Internet saying Toyota should have borrowed the 4.6-liter V-8 from the Tundra pickup for more towing capacity.

Despite a curb weight of nearly 4,800 pounds, the 4Runner Trail accelerates from a stop to 60 m.p.h. in a reasonably quick 7.8 seconds.

Early 4Runners offered 4-cylinder engines, turtle-like wonders that seemed to run forever.  For 2010, an in-line 4 returns — a 157-horsepower 2.7-liter engine borrowed from the Tacoma pickup. Equipped with the 4, the 4Runner feels lighter and more agile,… fuel economy is minor though, 18/23 m.p.g. might be cool if it were available with a 5-speed manual. But a 4-speed automatic is the only transmission. The V-6 models come with a 5-speed automatic.

There is an upscale Limited which no longer wears the thick tu-tone cladding that distinguished it visually from lesser versions. Now it is a gentleman’s off-roader.. something you can use to inspect your herd on the South 40 and then go to church in on Sunday. The Trail is for grown-ups who still like to play in the dirt. The base SR5 2-wheel drive is useful for week-end trips to Home Depot and the favorite Grocer.

The Limited comes with full-time 4-wheel-drive; the SR5 and Trail 4x4s use a part-time system engaged by a lever next to the shifter.

Prices for the 2010 4Runner start just under $30,000 and top out above $40,000.

The new cabin feels spacious — the old ones always seemed cramped — and Toyota has figured out how to jam in an optional third row of seats. But the ride back there isn’t pleasant for anyone larger or less compliant than 10 year olds. With all seven seats in use, the cargo capacity (up to 89.7 cubic feet with the rear seats down) almost vanishes just when it is needed most.

Without the third row, a sliding rear cargo deck is perfect for tailgating. There is also a “party mode” button, which redirects the stereo’s output to the back for maximum partying.

Toyota decided to keep the one-piece tailgate and the rear window that powers down. This provides flexibility when hauling kayaks, lumber or brass hat racks.

General Motors, Ford and Chrysler are having tomove away from body-on-frame S.U.V.’s toward more carlike crossovers and there are now fewer choices for those who need truck-solid performance and off-road abilities. Now, more than ever, there is nothing quite like a 4Runner.


Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

Balancing off road tires can be a challenge. The tires on Tacoma, 4Runner, FJ Cruiser, and Tundra can be heavy and the tread easily damaged. For Example, when the tires are aired down they can sometimes slip on the rim so the balance point moves. In wet muddy conditions, mud can adhere to the inside of the wheel throwing  the tire out of balance.counter act bead application

The traditional way of balancing tires uses static mounted weights on the rims to counter balance the heavy points in the tire/rim combination.  With the ever changing condition on off road tires and rims these balance points can change very quickly.

Bead balancing systems have been used on over the road truck tires for some time and they are now finding there way into off- road applications. So when planning to mount custom Wheels and specialized Tires it may be wise to give balancing beads a try. There are companies such as Counteract Balancing Beads, that will send you bags for this installation.

The beads can be added during the tire mounting so no additional balancing need be done on the wheels. Off-Road enthusiasts who take lengthy off-road trips report feeling no balance vibration from the tires. The application seems to have worked very effectively.

An added benefit of the balancing beads is there are no weights mounted on the outside of the rims which leads to a much cleaner installation.

Three Toyota/Lexus Vehicles Earn the 2010 ‘Top Safety Pick’ Award

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

Based on new rollover test results, the 2011 Toyota Avalon and Sienna, and the 2010 Lexus RX are designated Top Safety Picks by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.2011 siennaavalon





“The award recognizes the vehicles that earn the highest rating for front, side, rollover and rear crash protection, and that have electronic stability control, which is standard on all three of these models,” the IIHS said.

The 2011 Sienna is the first minivan to earn the institute’s top safety designation since good performance for rollover protection was added to the criteria for 2010 ratings.


Monday, May 24th, 2010

Toyota and Tesla announced on Thursday that they would cooperate in developing electric cars, parts and production. Tesla-Roadster

As part of the partnership, Toyota is investing $50 million in Tesla, which makes a $109,000 battery-powered Roadster and is planning a mass-market electric car. Separately, Tesla will take over the New United Motor Manufacturing plant — widely known by its acronym NUMMI. 

The UAW thinks the news that Toyota and Tesla are to hook-up to build electric vehicles at the Fremont, California, plant formerly operated by Toyota and General Motors is “welcome news.”

The plant, which built Toyota’s Corolla and Tacoma vehicles and the Pontiac Vibe for GM, had employed about 4,500 workers represented by the UAW.

But in a move the union and California politicians fought to block, Toyota closed the 25-year-old joint-venture plant on April 1 after concluding that it was not economical to keep it running. NUMMI was the only Toyota plant in the United States with union representation, mainly because of the GM involvement,.

The UAW which is wrapped tightly with GM  hopes that this venture will give first hiring preference to former NUMMI employees who are already trained and skilled. But GM dropped its stake in the plant as part of its 2009 bankruptcy…,Union involvement is not a part of “The Toyota Way”.


Friday, May 21st, 2010

Toyota and Tesla Motors Inc. will team to produce electric vehicles at New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. in Fremont, Calif., a plant that Toyota last year ruled too inefficient to keep open.tesla

Tesla will acquire the now-closed NUMMI property and employ 1,000 people building unspecified electric vehicles in a partnership with the world’s largest automaker, the companies announced Thursday.

Toyota will invest $50 million in the small California-based electric sports car maker in exchange for Tesla’s common stock when the EV company completes its planned initial public offering.

In addition to the NUMMI purchase, the venture will spur a product-development relationship between the automakers.

Under the partners’ scenarios, Tesla will gain from Toyota’s scale, engineering resources and access to its supplier base. Toyota, in turn, will have Tesla’s lean and rapid product development, as well as its electric vehicle technology. Toyota is still using older-tech Nickel-Metal-Hydride batteries in its Prius and other hybrids, while Tesla is using newer, Lithium-ion batteries.


Tesla CEO Elon Musk said his company would spend “a couple of hundred million dollars” preparing NUMMI for the project.

That cost will be covered by $465 million in Department of Energy loans that will fund the manufacturing ramp-up, as well as development of the upcoming Model S Sedan.

NUMMI’s costs also will be defrayed by about $20 million in sales tax abatements the state of California is providing Tesla in its capital expenditures, Musk said. NUMMI, a former joint venture between Toyota and General Motors, closed earlier this year amid a storm of criticism from the plant’s UAW work force.

Tesla’s next car, a Model S that will debut in 2012, will account for about 20,000 units a year. The Model S will sell for about $40,000. Until it appears, Tesla is marketing a two-seat electric sports car that retails for more than $100,000. Other models will follow off the platform.

“NUMMI is a massive plant. We’re going to be occupying a little corner,” Musk said. He added that he expects the plant to build “hundreds of thousands” of more affordable electric vehicles in the longer term. “That’s where NUMMI is great. It’s designed for high-volume, efficient production,” Musk said.

He said that eventually the project would account for 10,000 jobs, including positions with suppliers.

Toyota has expressed little interest in electric cars before today. The Japanese automaker has staked considerable research and marketing investment on the popular hybrid-drive vehicles, including the Prius and Hybrid Camry.


Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

Do You have some of those “Pieces Of Advice” stored in the back of your head that GrandPa passed along to you about gas mileage when driving  in used cars?gas mileage myths

Well, some of what you think you know about car mileage may be wrong, and it might cost you money when you get behind the wheel of that used car fuel saver.

The EPA offeres some informative information called  “the top 10 misconceptions about fuel economy.”

Here are some of the misconception myths about gas car mileage:

  • Using premium gasoline will improve your gas mileage –If you had a dime for every dollar people have squandered pumping premium into cars that don’t need it, you’d never worry about gasoline prices again. Using a higher fuel grade than the automaker recommends will almost certainly have no effect on your gas mileage. However, pumping a lower grade in the fuel tank than recommended can damage your engine and will probably increase fuel consumption and cost you money and gas mileage.
  •  Smaller vehicles always get better fuel economy, gas mileage – Hybrids, diesels, new technologies and smart engineering like Toyota Prius can create vehicles that combine fuel efficiency, gas mileage with room and comfort. Chevrolet will market its 2011 Cruze as a compact, but its interior room qualifies as a midsize by EPA standards. Despite that, the car’s 40-m.p.g. highway rating may be impressive. 
  • A manual transmission will give you better fuel economy than an automatic – Maybe so in used cars…But, Modern automatic transmissions often provide better gas mileage than a manual, thanks largely to extra gears and electronic controls. The 2011 Ford Mustang V6’s EPA rating of 19 m.p.g. in the city and 31 m.p.g. on the highway is 1 m.p.g. better on the highway than a Mustang with the same engine and a manual transmission. The same thing is true for cars ranging from the compact Honda Civic to the $85,550 BMW 650ci luxury convertible.
  • Vehicles need to warm up before you drive themElectronic engine controls mean a modern vehicle is running at or near maximum efficiency as soon as you start it. Letting the car warm up for a few minutes simply wastes fuel.
  • Aftermarket additives will dramatically improve your fuel economyForget it. They’re more likely to damage your engine or increase your tailpipe emissions. For more information on this, go the Federal Trade Commission’s Web site and look up Gas-Saving Products: Fact or Fuelishness?
  • It takes more fuel to restart the engine than let it idleThis was true when inefficient carburetors metered fuel use in used cars, but modern fuel injection means that you save energy by turning the engine off. This does NOT mean you should shut the engine off at every stoplight or when you’re waiting in line. That can wear out your starter and slow all the other drivers, irritating them and leading to wasted fuel in all the vehicles. However, stop-start systems that efficiently shut the engine off are a key part of how hybrids save fuel. Nearly every new vehicle will have a fast and efficient automatic stop-start feature in a few years.
  • The window-sticker mileage figures are a guarantee of the mileage you’ll getNot even close. How you drive has a massive impact on your car mileage. However, the window-sticker figures are the only way to realistically compare fuel economy, gas mileage, and operating costs when you shop for a new vehicle. The numbers are generated in lab tests, so every vehicle is held to the same standard. “Your mileage will vary” as the fine print says, but you can trust that a higher EPA rating will save you money.


Sunday, May 16th, 2010

Here is the New 2011 Rav4, Toyota’s small land cruiser. Toyota has completely revised the front end, with new headlights, front grille, a new hood and a new front bumper with integrated fog lights. 2011_toyota_rav4

 The RAV4 boasts a new design, but it appears to have kept existing proportions. Details about the engines have yet to be divulged however, but it’s expected that there won’t be any major changes.

The 2011 Toyota RAV4 would benefit from the addition of Bluetooth wireless connectivity and by having a USB port instead of an auxiliary plug to interface with iPods. Toyota could also migrate some upscale features previously reserved for the Sport and Limited to the Base model — or to a new interim edition to commemorate the approaching end of this third-generation RAV4. Otherwise, the 2011 RAV4 will continue with a fine array of standard safety features and a slightly less-impressive suite of convenience items. On the safety front, every RAV4 gets antilock four-wheel disc brakes with brake assist, plus traction and antiskid control. The head-protecting curtain side airbags cover only the first two seating rows but include rollover sensors. RAV4s equipped with the V-6 or third-row seat add hill ascent/descent control. Sport models have 18-inch wheels and handle well but ride stiffly. The other models lean more and grip less in fast turns, but their more absorbent tires and suspension settings are welcome on bumpy roads. A height-adjustable driver’s seat, tilt/telescoping steering, remote keyless entry, and power mirrors, windows and locks will again be included in the base price of the 2011 RAV4. A power sunroof and a DVD-based navigation system are options that have been exclusive to the Sport and Limited models. Leather upholstery with heated front seats and rear-seat DVD entertainment


Sunday, May 16th, 2010

The 2010 Toyota FJ Cruiser ranks 9 out of 23 Affordable Midsize SUVs according to US News and World Report and is a four wheeler that is one of the best. This ranking is based on analysis of 66 published reviews and test drives of the Toyota FJ Cruiser, and analysis of reliability and safety cruiser

The eye-catching Toyota FJ Cruiser continues to impress reviewers with its unique, retro-inspired styling and solid off-road performance. However, the FJ’s interior and on-pavement ride have a lot of competition from other affordable SUVs.

Upon its 2007 introduction, the Toyota FJ Cruiser quickly wowed critics with its out-of-this-world looks and impressive off-road performance. And aided by enhancements for 2010, it continues to do so. The new model receives V6 engine enhancements resulting in 19 more horsepower and improved gas mileage, as well as suspension tweaks. The FJ’s overall value makes it a 2010 Best Off-Road SUV for the Money.

The Toyota FJ Cruiser comes in two trims, the base model and a new-for-2010 Special Edition — which adds off-road equipment and a trail-programmed navigation system. It’s available in either two- or four-wheel drive.

A brain-storm thought would be to offer an Fj Cruiser Convertible…Now this could be really cool. What would that look like? Check it Out Below…2007_toyota_fj-cruiser CONV.

If you’re interested in an FJ Cruiser, the improved fuel economy may make the new 2010 model worth your while.


Friday, May 14th, 2010

Toyota GEN 6 Navigation introduces a host of new and improved capabilities and may convince you to do away with that Garmin NuVi or TomTom. GEN 6 GPS navigation equipped vehicles now include Camry, Tundra Limited and Platinum grades, Venza, Prius, 4Runner, Sienna and the new 2011 Avalon.2011_toyota_avalon_22_cd_gallery

GEN 6 Navigation in these vehicles now include a built-in USB port that allows a connected iPod to be controlled via steering wheel switches or touchscreen buttons on the nav unit. Plus, USB power from the port will charge the iPods’s battery. But it’s not just iPods that work, many flash drives containing MP3 or WMA files can also be connected and controlled in a similar manner.

Here Are New And Improved Features With Toyota GEN 6  Car Navigation…

ImprovedBluetoothPhoneOperations                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     The interactive display for Bluetooth hands-free phone operation is greatly improved. Connecting a phone and transferring contact numbers is simplified making dailing by name or number much easier.

BluetoothAudioFeatures                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Enables Wireless connection between a portable audio device and the vehicle’s audio system. The driver can control certain device functions from the steering wheel switches or from the Nav unit’s touchscreen.

SimplifiedAddressAndPOISearch                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Like a Google search, GEN 6 lets you search for an address or Point of Interest without knowing the exact spelling. Similar and suggested names are presented automatically as options to choose from. You may not want that Garmin or TomTom.

ImprovedVoiceCommandFunctions                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   You can speak a topic such as “Go Home” , “Destination”, “Phone”, or “Audio”  froma new Voice Menu to narrow the field. Voice prompt can be by-passed by pushing the Voice Recognition Button twice.

StreetNameVoiceGuidance                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          GEN  6 Car Navigation announces the actual street prior to the turn,unlike generic commands given by GEN5                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

Go  To The Generation 6 Navigation Tutorial Link Here





Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

The author of the best selling book The Toyota Way, in an article written for the Institute of Professional Engineers, discusses lean manufacturing and coverage of the recent recalls while addressing concerns that some have raised about whether lean production methods adopted from the Toyota Production System by so many companies around the world – are still optimal.
“Do the data support the demise of Toyota’s famed obsession with quality and safety?” Jeffrey Liker asks.  “Certainly, any objective look at the data would say that the company appears to be one of the best automakers in quality and safety, continuing through 2010,” he says, pointing out the number of quality awards it has won this year.  “I am not arguing that Toyota is perfect and doesn’t have problems. Toyota autos, as all autos, have unforeseen problems, which may ultimately lead to recalls,” Liker notes, pointing out that there were nearly 500 auto recalls in the United States in 2009 – nearly 10 recalls per week.  However, he says, “The news of Toyota’s demise is premature, and most of the assumptions about plummeting quality and safety of Toyota automobiles have been exaggerated and sensationalized.”
Liker points out that “recalls are an imperfect measure because a small number of problems can lead to huge numbers of vehicles recalled, and the definition of a recall.”  He also notes that automakers sometimes choose very different ways to respond to an issue.  In March, for example, Toyota recalled certain Prius to adjust software that controls the car’s anti-lock braking system.  “In fact, Ford had a similar problem on the Fusion Hybrid around the same time and was able to get by quietly with a technical service bulletin,” Liker writes.
A significant part of the route forward, particularly in improving consumer trust, according to the professor,lies in the quality principles and lean manufacturing that made Toyota so strong to begin with. Speaking of the steps that the company has taken to improve quality assurance, Liker writes, “I would argue that the approach Toyoda is taking follows the principles of the Toyota way exceptionally well, and that is what will help Toyota get past this issue.”  He notes, “The Toyota way is to confront problems openly, find the root cause, solve the problems and learn.  In the long-term, if Toyoda is successful in leading Toyota to another level of customer responsiveness, we may have an even better model for excellence in the future.”

It is important to note that in America, Toyota continues to have a significant positive impact on the American economy.

Toyota total U.S. investment has grown to more than $18 billion and, together with dealers and suppliers, Toyota has helped create more than 200,000 jobs in the U.S. The Company has also contributed nearly half a billion dollars to U.S. charitable organizations and community institutions in the past 20 years.

And, 80 percent of all Toyotas sold in the United States over the past 20 years are still on the road today.


Monday, May 10th, 2010

Toyota’s first production hydrogen fuel cell car will be a sedan model with the range of a gasoline model, said a company executive last week.

It will be priced at roughly $50,000, and go on sale in

That’s more expensive than upcoming electric vehicles like the 2011 Nissan Leaf, to be priced at $32,800, and the Chevy Volt, which hasn’t yet been priced but is expected to cost $40,000 or less. For both cars, a Federal tax credit of $7,500 helps offset the price

At a price of $50,000 (minus any applicable Federal and state tax incentives), the market for such a car would be “small,” said Toyota’s Yoshihiko Masuda. He also indicated that Toyota hoped to cover its production costs at that sale price, but declined to speculate on sales.

Cutting costs aggressively

Toyota’s 15 years of experience in developing hybrid-electric vehicles like its iconic Prius may have given it unparalleled experience in squeezing out costs from new propulsion technologies.

Indeed, Toyota says its cost to build a hydrogen fuel-cell car has fallen 90 percent in less than 10 years, from as high as $1 million apiece for early prototypes. To price that first production car at $50,000, it said, it would have to cut its current cost by half again.

It accomplished this by reducing the amount of platinum in the fuel cell and creating less expensive thin films for the cell, as well as more economical high-pressure tanks to hold the compressed hydrogen fuel.

Test fleets from GM, Honda

Many other carmakers have ongoing hydrogen vehicle programs, including General Motors, Daimler, and Honda, whose FCX Clarity model is the only hydrogen car in “volume” production today.

Honda has now leased almost two dozen FCX Clarities in the Los Angeles area, which currently has 10 hydrogen refueling stations. Many have gone to celebrities, including actors and politicians.

The largest hydrogen vehicle test program is GM’s “Project Driveway,” which numbers more than 100 Chevrolet Equinox crossovers converted to hydrogen fuel cells on the road. Other makers have smaller fleets of hydrogen vehicles as well.

Many of those makers have said they will offer fuel-cell vehicles for sale by 2015. BMW is reportedly developing a hydrogen hybrid Mini concept, following its experiments with the Hydrogen 7, whose combustion engine could burn either gasoline or hydrogen.

Two problems

Hydrogen may not be the “fuel of the future,” for two reasons. First, its “wells-to-wheels” carbon balance is highly suspect, because it takes an enormous amount of energy input to produce pure hydrogen from more complex molecules.

And second, the utter lack of a nationwide hydrogen fueling infrastructure–and the cost and legal challenges of creating one from scratch–have dimmed the prospects of hydrogen as a widespread vehicle fuel. Such a network would likely cost tens of billions of dollars.

DoE: EVs are the way

Electric vehicles, on the other hand, have at least the basic of a widespread “refueling” system in place already: the electric grid.

As EVs move closer to volume production, the U.S. Department of Energy has granted billions of dollars for EV research in its advanced technology vehicle loan program–but substantially cut funding for research into hydrogen vehicles.

Meanwhile, the latest hope for hydrogen fuel cells could lie in using them as self-contained power stations for office buildings and factories. There’s an Idea…


Monday, May 3rd, 2010

Car Sales for Toyota may have risen 34 percent, according to the average of five analysts while car sales for General Motors rose only approximately 7%. Toyota extended the no-interest loans and discount leases it offered at car dealerships through April.rising sales

The yearly rate of domestic car sales in April may be less than the 11.7 million seasonally adjusted annualized pace in March, when Toyota first offered its biggest car dealerships incentives to counter global recalls, spurring competitors to add discounts.

Toyota began offering incentives on March 2 such as subsidized leases after worldwide recalls of more than 8 million vehicles to fix defects linked to unintended acceleration and to adjust brakes. The company probably spent an average $2,416 on incentives on each vehicle last month, according to

One Car Dealership Owner who has a Toyota and a Buick, GMC and Cadillac dealership in Iowa, said Toyota sales were up 30 percent at his Toyota store and sales increased about 20 percent among his GM brands.

“Sales were really pretty good, but not quite as good as March,” the owner said, adding that sales may keep gaining this year. “We’re seeing a lot more car dealership showroom traffic and a lot more Internet activity.