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‘Father of the Prius’ Has High Hopes Plug-in Prius Will See Strong Sales

Toyota’s “father of the Prius” is confident the Prius Prime plug-in hybrid will sell much faster than the original hybrid Prius.

Speaking at a media event launching the Prius Prime in Japan, Toyota chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada said he expects Prius plug-in hybrids to pass the one million unit sales mark in less than 10 years; a decade is how long it took the original Prius to hit that benchmark.

Uchiyamada led the Prius development team, which launched the hybrid in Japan in 1997.

“Environmental awareness has become a bigger issue today than it was 20 years ago, and demand for environmentally conscious products has increased,” Uchiyamada said.

On Monday, Toyota had announced that it has sold more than 10 million cumulative hybrid vehicles, including plug-in hybrids, as of January 31. That milestone was met just nine months after total hybrid sales reached the 9 million units sold mark. Toyota also reported that the company sold 246,000 hybrid units last year with the new RAV4 Hybrid accounting for nearly 13 percent of those sales.

Uchiyamada has “no idea” when plug-in Prius sales will hit the one million mark, though the technology for plug-in has been improving rapidly, which has lowered costs.

Since pioneering hybrid technology, Toyota developed about 40 hybrid models. The automaker currently sells eight Toyota hybrid models and five Lexus hybrid models in the U.S. Those numbers include four variants of the Prius, three hybrid and one plug-in hybrid.

Toyota expects to sell about 60,000 Prius Primes a year, with more than half being sold in Japan. The original Prius plug-in hybrid only had about 75,000 units sold from its launch in 2012 to its closure in 2015.

SEE ALSO:  5 Cool Things About the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime

Limited range from battery power was widely thought to be a problem to overcome in selling more plug-in Priuses. The Prius Plug-in Hybrid was said to have anywhere from 11 to 13 miles on battery power.

Toyota said that the Prius Prime has a range of 42 miles per charge based on Japanese standards. That comes out to around 25 miles under U.S. standards.

The Prius Prime has done well in sales since being launched in North America in late 2016. In January U.S. sales, the Prius Prime beat the Tesla Model S and followed the Chevy Volt for the No. 2 spot, according to HybridCars’ Dashboard.

Toyota has opened up to endorsing lithium ion batteries, which are being placed the in Prius Prime. The company had avoided that battery technology, which has been widely adopted for competitor’s electric vehicles, for years. Nickel metal hydride batteries have been used in recent Toyota hybrid models.

Toyota had been concerned over the cost, size, and safety of li-ion batteries, but that seems to have reached a turning point.

Automotive News

 

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Ford Building Wind Tunnel Complex To Improve Performance and Efficiency

Ford Motor Co. is adding a $200 million wind tunnel testing complex to try out real-world driving conditions for improved fuel efficiency and durable performance.

Real-world driving simulations will take place at a new aerodynamic testing complex with a rolling road wind tunnel and climatic chamber. Ford vehicles will be tested in temperatures as low as minus 40 degrees and as high as 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

Construction starts this year on at the new wind tunnel complex located next to Ford’s Driveability Test Facility in Allen Park, Mich.

It’s getting a new five-belt conveyor system that can replicate real-world drag through a rolling road aerodynamic tunnel. Each wheel will get its own belt, with a massive fifth belt running under the center of the tested vehicle. That will bring in airflow at speeds up to 155 mph.

The rolling road belt cartridge system uses a crane that can switch between the five belt and single belt system. That single belt can go up to 200 mph, which means it can be used for testing high-speed performance and racing vehicles.

You can view one of those performance vehicles, the Ford GT, in the video below. You’ll also see a Ford F-150 being tested with wind blasts.

Ford says it will have to “super-size” the wind tunnel chambers to accommodate the larger Super Duty trucks.

The Ford press release says that consumer’s appetite for vehicles with fuel efficiency and performance has led the automaker to invest $200 million in the test chamber.

“This investment in new world-class test facilities underpins Ford’s ongoing commitment to advance our capabilities to continue to provide our customers with high-quality vehicles,” said Raj Nair, Ford executive vice president, global product development and chief technical officer.

SEE ALSO:  New Wind Tunnel For GM. Goal: Save Fuel

Dennis Paige, lab manager for Ford’s Driveability Testing Facilities, said that the new facility will help Ford keep pace with the evolution of vehicles and where the auto industry is heading. It brings to Ford more of the advanced features, development, and innovation required to compete in the market.

Ford has focused on fuel efficiency in new model roll-outs, including lightweighting its F-Series pickups with aluminum alloys. The automaker’s vehicle electrification strategy is part of that campaign.

Ford CEO Mark Fields remains committed to fuel efficiency and sustainability goals, but has asked President Donald Trump to scale back on the federal fuel economy standards.

Several analysts and environmental groups have called to question Field’s claim that the Environmental Protection Agency’s recently approved standards through 2025 will cost the auto industry one million jobs.

 

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Three Automakers and Lyft Ask Feds to Adopt National Standard for Self-Driving Cars

Automakers and ride-hailing firm Lyft have asked Congress to unify self-driving car guidelines by a national standard.

Executives from Toyota, General Motors, Volvo, and Lyft urged lawmakers in Washington yesterday to unify the patchwork of state laws governing testing and deployment of autonomous vehicles. The federal government has constitutional authority to override conflicting state laws, they said.

Laws, and enforcement of them, are varying by state. California has become known for sparring with companies including ride-hailing firm Uber, over self-driving test protocols. Michigan’s recently adopted rules are considered to be much broader, making room for fully autonomous vehicle to eventually be allowed on the state’s public roads.

Nine states – California, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, Nevada, North Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia, along with Washington D.C. – have passed legislation related to autonomous vehicles, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The association also said that governors in Arizona and Massachusetts issued executive orders related to autonomous vehicles.

This patchwork of varying and conflicting state laws threatens to hold back innovation, said Lyft government relations vice president Joseph Okpaku in testimony before a House subcommittee. Legislators in more than 20 states have proposed nearly 60 bills to regulate self-driving vehicles since January 1, he said.

Lyft is looking forward to test driving autonomous Chevy Bolts with partner company General Motors. The two companies are preparing to test out a fleet of self-driving Bolt taxis beginning this year. GM has already started testing out 50 of these electric vehicles in California and Michigan.

GM would like to the U.S. Department of Transportation secretary have power over the question.

Congress should grant authority to the Transportation secretary “to grant specific exemptions for highly automated vehicle development,” said Michael Ableson, a General Motors vice president, during a hearing.

These companies were likely pleased to hear the September announcement by then-DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx issuing long-awaited federal guidelines on testing and developing fully autonomous vehicles. The DOT called for uniform nationwide policies applying to autonomous vehicles.

State and federal lawmakers have been concerned about laws keeping up with self-driving vehicle technology breakthroughs. Car shoppers can now purchase semi-autonomous, connected car features; some auto executives predict that fully automated vehicles could be available within five years.

The Congressional subcommittee gave signs of bipartisan support for the development of autonomous vehicles. They were noticeable silent over the question of adopting a national standard that would override state rules, according to USA Today.

SEE ALSO:  Chevrolet Bolt is Front and Center For GM’s Self-Drive Technologies

Toyota Research Institute CEO Gill Pratt expressed concerns over vehicle safety. A federal standard should be clear on how safe autonomous vehicles should be on roads. The public won’t support the new technology until that issue is addressed, he said.

“Society tolerates a significant amount of human error on our roads. We are, after all, only human,” he testified. “Humans show nearly zero tolerance for injuries or deaths caused by flaws in a machine.”

The Obama administration made statements about supporting self-driving car technology as a way to eliminate road fatalities within 30 years. The Trump administration so far hasn’t been clear about policy on autonomous vehicles.

For now, states are leading the way.

USA Today

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