Toyota

Have You Already Bought Your Last Car?

(3BlLMedia/Justmeans) — It’s getting hard to know what’s really true anymore. There are a number of reasons for this: fake news, political mischief and perhaps even a greater tolerance for liars. But there is also another reason: technology. Technology is changing so fast, that when people make pronouncements about deliveries by drones, exploration of other planets, or a rapid transformation of the car industry from what it is today, to a preponderance of electric, self-driving cars that are no longer owned by car-owners but hailed by a tap on a smartphone, it’s hard to know if they are simply making all this up.

According to Christopher Mims, writing for the Wall Street Journal, the one about the cars is true. With the convergence of electric powertrains, self-driving technology and the growth of new ride-sharing business models, we could be looking at a transportation revolution on a par with what Henry Ford’s Model T did a century ago. Ford’s revolution happened surprisingly quickly. Car ownership leapt from 8% to 80% of the population in just ten years.  Is it about it to move that quickly in the opposite direction? A lot of trends seem to indicate that it could.

For one thing, there will be a multitude of attractive alternatives. Urban planners, concerned about making their cities greener, have put increased emphasis on public transit, bike lanes and walkable neighborhoods. For those too old or out of shape to walk or bike, new electrified bikes, scooters, and even skateboards can get you where you want to go quickly and affordability without wearing you out, safety concerns notwithstanding. These latter fall into the category of consumer electronics, vying for a market segment known as the last mile, getting a commuter home from a bus stop or train station.

These are some of the reasons why millennials seem to be opting out of car ownership. Surveys by the Urban Land Institute show that they are far less likely to use a car and more likely to use alternatives. Futurist Alex Steffen quipped that it’s because they can’t surf the web while driving. It’s more likely because they can visit their friends online without needing to drive over to their houses.

Electric Cars Are Coming on Strong

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - Change takes time, but sometimes not as much time as one would have thought. A few short years ago, the idea of electric vehicles seemed like a tiny speck on a distant horizon—a toy for technophiles and early adapters. But even the Wall Street Journal says the EV’s will be here sooner than you think. And by here, they don’t mean on the fringes.

The numbers seem to bear this out. Worldwide, some 312,000 plug-in vehicles were sold in the first half of this year. That’s a 49% increase compared to last year. That growth rate, says Clean Technica, is roughly ten times that of the overall vehicle market. The biggest action was in China, where they grew 128% with home grown BYD vehicles providing the lion’s share. Japan came in second, and Europe, taken as a whole comes in third, with 21% growth before we get to the 18% growth seen here in the US.

Here at home, some 64,296 were sold through June. That is about one for every 150 cars sold. The top five models were Tesla Model S, Chevy Volt, Ford Fusion Energi PHEV, Tesla Model X, and Nissan Leaf with Tesla Model S sales roughly double that of the Leaf. Leaf sales have dropped recently in anticipation of a new model with significantly improved range, a phenomenon that has become common in the rapidly-changing EV world.

The tipping point, says WSJ, is the 200 mile range mark, which Tesla has already hit, and others, including the soon to be released Chevy Bolt, will meet and improve on.

Toyota And Net Impact Want Millennials To Help Solve Mobility Challenges Of The Future

(3BL Media/Justmeans) – The number of people over 65 is set to double within 25 years, and, by 2035, more than 1.1 billion people will be above the age of 65.  This ageing brings with it many concerns, particularly with mobility, and demands more, other transport solutions to get people from one place to another than ever before. Innovation plays an integral part to helping build a future, where everyone can move more freely.

Toyota Invests $50 Million In Artificial Intelligence

(3BL Media/Justmeans) – Artificial Intelligence (AI) is already part of our everyday lives. We often don’t know it because it’s not obvious. However, the next wave of AI-enabled devices will interact with humans in a far more noticeable way via intelligent robots and autonomous cars.

High Speed Chargers Bring EV’s One Step Closer to Mainstream

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - In the year 1906, Ray Stannard Baker wrote the following passage about automobiles in the book The Boy’s Book of Inventions: Stories of the Wonders of Modern Science.

“The electric vehicle which has had its most successful development in this country has its well-defined advantages and disadvantages. It is simpler in construction and more easily managed than any other vehicle: one manufacturer calls it ‘fool proof.’ It is wholly without odor or vibrations and practically noiseless. It will make any permissible rate of speed and climb any ordinary hill. On the other hand, it is immensely heavy, owing to the use of storage batteries; it can run only a limited distance without recharging…”

He goes on to say, “Indeed, all the manufacturers of electric vehicles speak with the confidence of the day when the whole of the United States will be as thoroughly sprinkled with electric charging stations as it is today with bicycle road-houses.”

A hundred years ago we were at a crossroads similar to the one we find ourselves at today, with electric vehicles vying against gasoline-powered cars. Back then, the choice was made, influenced by a good deal of lobbying and maneuvering by the oil industry. The fact that gasoline powered cars were also cheaper and didn’t have the range issues of electrics also helped to tip the scales.

So, the question is, how much have things changed? Electric cars are still more expensive and still confront the range limitation challenge that seems to be inherent in trying to store adequate energy in electrical rather than chemical form.

What has changed is the realization that widespread usage of fossil fuels has put our planet and everything living on it at risk of a destabilized climate that threatens every aspect of our life-support system.

With so much of our day to day life built around a gas powered car that can be quickly and (of late) inexpensively filled up at any of the thousands of gas stations that cover the landscape, the challenge of switching over to a completely different energy is huge.

Yes, EV prices are coming down (see Chevy Bolt) and charging stations are popping up everywhere. According to DOE, there are currently 8,983 charging stations and 22,387 charging outlets in the US. Whether that’s as many as there were bicycle roadhouses back 1906 is not clear, but unless people are convinced that it’s enough to assuage their “range anxiety,” they will hesitate to buy an EV. Roughly 120,000 electric vehicles were sold in the US last year, bringing the total up to around 280,000.

There are a couple of other dimensions to this question. One is that, unlike gasoline, people do have access to electricity at home, which is where much of the vehicle charging, at least for local trips will take place. That’s why there needn’t necessarily be as many charging stations as there are gas stations. The other dimension is the fact that not all charging stations are created equal.  What varies is the amount of time required for a charge, though what is true in all cases is the fact that it will take longer to charge your car with electrons than it did to fill it with gasoline.

Most people will come to recognize that it will be worth the wait in order to maintain a livable climate, but that doesn’t mean it will be an easy adjustment.

Is there another way to do this? In a word, yes. Some areas, like Denmark, for example, are experimenting with the idea of a charged battery as a service. This is how that works. Instead of owning the battery as part of your car, the battery is a shared resource. When your charge is getting low, you pull into a station, where they lift out your battery and replace it with a fully charged one. This doesn’t take any longer than filling up a gas tanks, but it’s a different ownership model that is more in line with the sharing economy. Not all EVs are configured for this but several Nissan models are designed to work with a robotic battery switching station designed by Shai Agassi of Better Place. That same approach, by the way, was used by New York taxi companies in the early 20th century when electric cabs made a brief appearance. The other option would be to go to hydrogen fuel cell, which is being vigorously pursued by Toyota.

Toyota Practices Water Conservation

Toyota is serious about water conservation: the company saved 93.3 million gallons of water in North America in 2014. Certified LEED Toyota and Lexus dealers are reducing water use by over 20 percent. That'a good ,because drought is a big problem in the U.S. Thirty-six states are facing water shortages; the entire state of California is in drought. The San Antonio area of Texas has suffered from drought since the 1990s.

Toyota Makes the Leap Into Fuel Cell Cars

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - Now that just about every carmaker has one or more electric models available, with considerable refinements coming out every year, charging stations are becoming more common, and battery technology continues to advance, why would Toyota, the world’s largest car manufacturer and leader in the hybrid market, decide to invest in a hydrogen car?

Toyota President Akio Toyoda has his reasons, many of which are as much about saving the planet as they are about earning a profit for his company. He told Bloomberg Business Week, “The automobile industry can contribute to the sustainable growth of earth itself.” The third generation family president of the company said, “At Toyota, we are looking out 50 years and even more decades into the future. I do believe that [the] fuel-cell vehicle is the ultimate environmentally friendly car. But the point is not just to introduce it as an eco-friendly car with good mileage. I wanted it to be fun to drive and interesting as a car.”

He doesn’t have a lot of true believers among his peers. The CEOs of Volkswagen, Nissan, and Tesla have all gone on record saying that the hydrogen highway was a dead end street, if not in so many words.

But Toyoda is backing up his words with the launch of the Mirai, expected to be available by the end of next year. The car is expected to sell for $57,500. Federal and State incentives could bring this down into a range comparable with an EV or a plug-in hybrid, which is pretty impressive, considering the completely new technology involved.  It will have a driving range of 300 miles, will be quicker than the Prius, and will emit only water vapor and a bit of heat.

What is it about hydrogen, that, like the tortoise in the race with the hare, will allow it to win the race against the EV in the long run?

Supercapacitors Poised For a Major Clean Energy Impact

(3Bl Media/Justmeans) As an engineer, I was immediately impressed by the potential of supercapacitors in a clean energy future once I became aware of their capabilities. Much of that insight came from a conversation I had with Chad Hall, founder of supercapacitor maker Ioxus.

The reasoning goes something like this. We can get to a cleaner economy by substituting electrical devices for fossil fuel powered ones. Technically, that’s not a problem as long as we can plug things into the power grid. But for portable devices, like, for example, vehicles, we need to rely on batteries or some other type of portable energy storage, like hydrogen.

Batteries have limitations. Their characteristics depend upon the chemical reaction they are based on. Typically, we have to choose between their ability to hold a charge for a long time, giving a vehicle extended range, or the ability to deliver a substantial burst of power, providing vehicle performance. Today’s batteries have to trade-off between these two attributes which are known in the vernacular as energy density and power density.

This is where supercapacitors come in. These devices are like small batteries that can hold energy for a short time, but can deliver a tremendous burst of power. A supercapacitor, which typically has only one-tenth the energy density of a Li-ion battery, has ten times the power density. When paired with a battery that has been engineered for long range, you can get the best of both worlds.

Supercapacitor performance can be quite impressive. When paired with a 520 Hp gas engine in Toyota’s TS040 hybrid drag racing car, a supercapacitor can add a burst of 480 Hp through a pair of electric motors, bringing the instantaneous total up to 1000 Hp. The vehicle is designed to recharge the supercapacitor when braking.

These capabilities are beginning to find their way into conventional cars, both in regular and stop-start or soft hybrids. Toyota, Peugeot and BMW are all working on incorporating this technology into passenger car designs.

Hyundai-Kia Rated "Most Climate Friendly Carmaker" by UCS

(3BL Media/Justmeans) A new report just released by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), which ranks the environmental performance of the eight top-selling car companies in the U.S., had some interesting findings.

The report measured both smog-forming and global warming emissions for the model year 2013. First, the good news: every one of the companies evaluated has improved their global warming emissions compared with their 1998 average. This was, no doubt, influenced by the more stringent fuel economy standards. Cars that burn less fuel also give off less pollution. Overall, smog-forming emissions dropped by 87% since 1998. Global warming (GW) emissions, which have become regulated more recently, have dropped by nearly 20 percent. This reverses a two-decade trend, from 1985 to 2005, when gasoline prices fell and Americans fell in love with gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles. A slumping economy, followed by a slow recovery, saw relatively little investment in more-efficient technologies, a trend that has finally reversed. Letting the marketplace sort itself out, as free market cheerleaders have suggested, did not adequately reflect the long-term urgency of the global warming threat. It was only when the new regulations became law that we saw significant changes occur.

Most surprising perhaps, was the fact that for the first time, South Korean automaker Hyundai-Kia took the top spot, moving past long-time champion Honda. Hyundai-Kia made aggressive strides in improving its fuel-efficiency by shifting to smaller engines, adding turbo-charging and offering hybrid-electric versions of its most popular models, the Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima. Honda continues to lead in several classes, including SUVs and pickup trucks, but has fallen behind in its midsize fleet, dominated by its best-selling Accord sedan.

Also disconcerting, though not totally surprising, is the fact that America’s Big Three were at the bottom in this list; all were rated below the industry average set by foreign-made vehicles. Looking at the list, the companies fall in line by geography, going from Hyundai-Kia, to Japan’s big three (Honda, Toyota, Nissan), to Volkswagen, to the best of Detroit. Domestically, Ford led the pack, followed by GM and Chrysler. These eight top-selling brands represent nearly 90% of all US vehicle sales.The differences between companies were significant with top-ranked Hyundai-Kia producing 26.4% less GW emissions than Chrysler. Ford was third most improved from last year, following Nissan and Hyundai-Kia.

Different companies are currently pursuing different technologies to improve their emissions, ranging from turbocharged gasoline engines, to hybrid electrics, to diesels, to plug-in hybrids and battery electrics. With EPA standards scheduled to tighten in the coming years, we can expect this trend to continue. GM has stated a goal of reducing CO2 emissions by 15% by 2017.

The UCS rankings were developed by taking the average per mile emissions for each

Michigan Science Center to Reopen with Big Corporate Donations

The Detroit Science Center, which closed over a year ago amidst financial troubles that have been endemic across the Motor City, is getting a new lease on life with the support of several car companies.

Pages

Subscribe to Toyota