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Cablegate: Toyota Sees an All Hybrid Future

VZCZCXRO3143
PP RUEHFK RUEHKSO RUEHNAG RUEHNH
DE RUEHKO #0925/01 0950501
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 040501Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY TOKYO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3159
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 2636
RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN PRIORITY 1368
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA PRIORITY 2577
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 2002
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW PRIORITY 2198
RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA PRIORITY 9625
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 6038
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME PRIORITY 2066
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL PRIORITY 8663
RUEHFK/AMCONSUL FUKUOKA PRIORITY 7081
RUEHNAG/AMCONSUL NAGOYA PRIORITY 5527
RUEHNH/AMCONSUL NAHA PRIORITY 9464
RUEHOK/AMCONSUL OSAKA KOBE PRIORITY 0750
RUEHKSO/AMCONSUL SAPPORO PRIORITY 7677
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS PRIORITY
RHMCSUU/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TOKYO 000925

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR OES, EEB, AND EAP/J HEATHER DRESSER
USTR FOR M.BEAMAN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ENRG SENV TRGY SOCI JA
SUBJECT: TOYOTA SEES AN ALL HYBRID FUTURE


Sensitive But Unclassified. Please handle accordingly.

1. (SBU) Summary: Toyota plans to more than double hybrid
vehicle sales by 2010, apply hybrid technology across
powertrain types, and integrate hybrid systems into long-term
R&D programs to develop clean diesel, synthetic fuel, and
hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, according to executives at a
Toyota technical center. However, the same executives were
not enthusiastic about the future of biofuels in Japan.
While Toyota plans to commercialize a plug-in hybrid model by
2010, it must first solve battery capacity and weight issues.
Hybrid vehicles get high marks for fuel efficiency and are
an important element of GOJ strategy to reduce oil
consumption and greenhouse gas emissions in the transport
sector.

In the Future, Every Car Will be a Hybrid
-----------------------------------------
2. (SBU) Toyota executives report the company expects
annual sales of hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) by 2010 to
top one million vehicles worldwide -- a figure equal to
Toyota's cumulative HEV sales in the ten years since the
first Prius hybrid model was introduced. It is more than
double estimated 2007 sales of 430,000. Toyota reports
selling nearly eight million vehicles worldwide in 2006. In
addition to new HEV models, Toyota plans to make a limited
number of plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) available
commercially through a special leasing program by 2010.

3. (U) Toyota officials emphasize hybrid systems can
increase the efficiency of virtually any type of powertrain.
While Toyota's current generation of HEVs runs on gasoline,
the company expects to integrate hybrid systems into
long-term R&D programs to develop clean diesel, synthetic
fuel, and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. In the meantime,
however, Toyota expects to reduce the fuel consumption and
emissions of its vehicles through hybrid technology and
incremental improvements to conventional gasoline and diesel
engines.

As Toyota Goes, so Goes Japan . . . Except on Biofuels
--------------------------------------------- ---------
4. (SBU) Toyota's technology strategy meshes closely with
the GOJ's overall approach to reducing Japan's gasoline
consumption and vehicle emissions. The plan developed by the
Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) calls for
concurrent research into alternative fuels, clean diesel,
hybrid and electric battery technology, and hydrogen fuel
cells with a near-term focus on applications for conventional
engines. Although biofuels development is an important
component of METI's plan, Toyota executives downplayed the
role biofuels will play in displacing fossil fuels in Japan.

What is a Hybrid?
-----------------
5. (U) The HEVs, such as Toyota's Prius, combine an
electric motor and battery system with a traditional internal
combustion engine. Surplus power from the engine and energy
recovered from regenerative braking are captured and stored
in the battery, which powers the electric motor during
acceleration. A power control unit turns on and off the
engine as necessary. The use of recovered energy makes HEVs
more efficient than conventional vehicles. In studies by the
Japan Automobile Research Institute (JARI), HEVs use roughly
a third less fuel and produce half the carbon dioxide (CO2)
emissions of conventional vehicles. Plug-in hybrid vehicles
require even less fuel, as batteries can also be charged from
a standard electric outlet, allowing the vehicle to run
purely on electricity for a limited range before the battery
needs recharging and the hybrid system turns the engine on.

TOKYO 00000925 002 OF 002


Of course, the ultimate emissions footprint of PHEVs depends
on the source of electricity on the power grid.

Battery Technology Key for Plug-in Hybrids
------------------------------------------
6. (SBU) Toyota officials concede they must resolve battery
storage capacity and weight issues for PHEV performance to be
acceptable to the driving public. However, they say Toyota
is making progress. Current test versions using nickel-metal
hydride battery technology have an all-electric driving range
of 10km and a maximum speed of 100km/hr. Battery charging
takes 3-4 hours using a 100 Volt electric outlet. Toyota and
other Japanese companies are investing in research on
lithium-ion battery systems that promise greater storage
densities, but executives acknowledge durability and safety
issues remain. In a visit by ECONOFFs to battery
manufacturer GS Yuasa in Nara Prefecture, company officials
discussed a recent joint venture with Mitsubishi Corporation
to develop high energy-density lithium-ion batteries for use
in PHEVs by 2009.
SCHIEFFER

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