Toyota to introduce electric car to US by 2012

Toyota said on Saturday it plans to launch an electric car in the United States by 2012 and boost its gas-electric hybrid offerings to as many as ten models in the early years of the next decade.

Toyota said the announcement signals its intention to “broaden the scope of its advanced alternative-fuel vehicle development”.

The Japanese carmaker will show the prototype of its electric car, the FT-EV, at the Detroit auto show which opens on Sunday with press previews.

The two-seater hatchback shares its platform with Toyota’s tiny iQ, a petrol-powered four-seater which was recently launched in Japan.

“Last summer’s four-dollar-a-gallon gasoline was no anomaly. It was a brief glimpse of our future,” said Irv Miller, vice-president of environmental and public affairs for Toyota Motor Sales USA.

“We must address the inevitability of peak oil by developing vehicles powered by alternatives to liquid-oil fuel, as well as new concepts, like the iQ, that are lighter in weight and smaller in size,” Miller said in a statement.

“This kind of vehicle, electrified or not, is where our industry must focus its creativity.”

While electric and small commuter vehicles will be a “key component of Toyota’s sustainable mobility strategy”, the carmaker said that the conventional gas-electric hybrid is “considered Toyota’s long-term core powertrain technology”.

A third-generation Prius and the all new Lexus HS250h, which will debut at the Detroit show, are the first two of as many as 10 new hybrid models Toyota plans to launch in that time frame.

The carmaker also announced plans to speed up the delivery of plug-in hybrid vehicles by delivering 500 test vehicles to lease-fleet customers around the world in late 2009 rather than in 2010.

“Future customers will have high expectations for these emerging technologies,” Miller said. “This Prius PHV fleet programme is a key first step in confirming how and when we might bring large numbers of plug-in hybrids to global markets.” – AFP

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