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Toyota & Lexus Hybrid Crazy : Ignoring EV Tech

If you listen to the executives from Lexus or its parent company Toyota, their general mantra about the EV is that building pure electric vehicles is and will continue to be unprofitable, and the market for EV's is too small. Sadly, they are mistaken, but it is not hard to understand why.
If you zoom out to see that Toyota and Lexus make a tidy profit selling millions of hybrids, their anti-EV rhetoric starts to make sense. There is a process in psychology called Choice Supportive Bias, essentially where in this instance Toyota and Lexus are going to wax and wane about the attributes of Hybrid because they chose to invest in hybrid, and are now deeply entrenched in producing and selling the Prius family.

Toyota's investment in hybrid technology blinds them to the truth about the ongoing electric vehicle revolution that Tesla Motors has kicked into high gear with the Model S. With every revolution there is always someone dragging their feet, in this case it is Toyota resisting the EV revolution in favor of promoting their now profitable Hybrid program. It is worth noting that Toyota dumped billions into hybrid vehicles when producing the Prius was completely unprofitable back in 1992, when other automakers like GM and Ford said that building a high volume hybrid was impossible to do in a way that is profitable. Now all of the automakers have changed their tune, announcing that in 2018 and later, all new models will offer start stop, hybrid drive-trains or plug-in hybrid power.

Toyota seems to be talking out its mouth one way and the other with clean technology, they recently launched the Mirai hydrogen fuel cell vehicle to market where hydrogen re-fueling stations are a rare thing to find yet. The catch 22 is that you need to have more hydrogen stations to support the sales of such a vehicle, and visa versa.

I used to post that Hydrogen fuel is just the pipe dream of the oil and gas sector, another fuel like butane, propane, and methane, another thing to buy at a pump, where they can collect your money, when grid power is dirt cheap by comparison. With gas prices bellow $3 per gallon, the economics of hydrogen make even less sense now. I am not saying that fuel cells are bad, its just early in the development of that technology. We need more hydrogen stations before fuel cell electric vehicles can be sold in large volumes. I guess at $70K, the Mirai was not meant to sell in large volumes.

Looking forward, Toyota has a battery energy storage division that envisions a 10x increase in power and energy storage with solid state and 100x increased in power and energy storage with metal air batteries of the future. Lithium and Aluminum Air batteries currently the rage of research and development of disruptive energy storage technology development.

Toyota will do a complete about face on the subject of electric vehicles when the EV's of tomorrow is able to go hundreds of miles per charge, able to fully recharge in less than 20 minutes, and has a battery that lasts for 20 years and 200K miles of operation. This kind of technology is just around the corner in the 2025 era, something that Raymond Kurzwiel likes to talk about with the accelerating returns of computer aided engineering and technology. We are entering an age where adaptive robotics, artificial neural networks, cloud computing and AI technology are already giving the ability to the Model S to perform autopilot with Lidar, Sonar and Radar : synthetic computational vision technology that is better than human stereoscopic sight.



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  2. Toyota may be able to make EVs with off-the-shelf parts, but its focus on hybrids doesn't seem so pointless at all. Range-anxiety is still feared by most customers, plus the ability to run on a conventional fuel is still desirable in regions where electric power supply is prone to weather-related shortages. On the other hand, an eventual ability to use biofuels might become relevant in order to benefit from a stabilization of the carbon and nitrogen cycles instead of simply leaving organic matter rotting away in the field.