Gleaming on stage as we walked into the conference room was a futuristic eye catching concept car from Toyota, sharing the stage with a real road testing model.
Headliners on stage at Toyota presentation
Sr VP, Bob Carter, took the stage to give some history of the electric car and paint a picture of the future.
Carter explained that it takes focus and persistence to make electric transportation a reality. In the past, folks scoffed at the foolish idea of hydrogen replacing gas. It has been a 20 year quest. People referred to the Prius as a science project. But we’ve seen them go from the drawing board into our garages. He repeated: Change takes persistence.
Toyota strives for wheels turned by electricity. Hydrogen, water, electricity. The fuel cell is more efficient than gas and causes less emissions. In 2015, he two challenges that must be met: an affordable price and refueling infrastructure.
The appearance of the car is not just a styling statement; it allows for air flow uptake for system cooling and aerodynamics. The flashy blue automobile is a concept car. The oddly decorated other car is what he called a “mock up,” an engineering mule stuffed into a regular car, somewhat of a Frankenstein. It was critical for road testing at severe conditions. At minus 30 degrees centigrade in Canada, to San Francisco’s steep in-town hills, to Death Valley’s heat for testing cabin cooling, Frankie was put through its paces.
The car must pass laboratory testing, crash tests, and highway tests. Toyota had to invent the tools, build the guts, and test an exotic powertrain. This makes Toyota the hybrid electronics world leader. Carter says it is quiet as a Lexus hybrid, does 0-60 in “about” 10 sec, and can hit 100MPH. Materials, design and manufacturing equals the cost of delivery. He says the cost reduction of fuel cell technology however is staggering.
Lack of infrastructure is hampering acceptance of the vehicles. Carter acknowledged that it’s not about the genius of the car, but the experience of the driver. Manufacturers are getting help to set up fueling stations to make ownership and use a viable experience. Research was done to determine the most likely locations. Currently, there are 10 active hydrogen fueling stations in California. One hundred new ones are funded.
Carter borrowed the phrase: Location, location, location, to indicate what will gain the public’s acceptance of an electric car. It must be conveniently refueled. Research showed that a fueling station must be within six miles of the driver’s home or work. They have marked out 68 potential station sites in the California counties of Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Orange County.
The question is: How long before the Toyota Concept Car is on your dealer’s showroom floor?
Carter emphasized that it will take a combination of government regulators, academia, and car manufacturers to make electric cars a feasible alternative for the average person. Carter said: Toyota is not trying to reinvent the wheel, just what makes it turn.
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