Pay out on plug-ins

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Prestige - RICHARD BLACK­BURN­

THE head of Lexus’s in­ter­na­tional di­vi­sion has taken a shot at plug-in hy­brids as the com­pany’s Ger­man ri­vals rush to em­brace the tech­nol­ogy,

Plug-in hy­brids are the flavour of the month for Ger­man luxury brands, which ini­tially were slow to de­velop hy­brids.

But Lexus ex­ec­u­tive vi­cepres­i­dent in­ter­na­tional Mark Tem­plin says the com­pany is not rush­ing to adopt plug-in tech­nolo­gies, de­spite par­ent com­pany Toy­ota sell­ing a plugin ver­sion of the Prius in the US.

“I be­lieve that plug-in hy­brid is just a step­ping stone to the next tech­nol­ogy, which is fuel cell,” he says. “Most con­sumers don’t use them the way they’re de­signed to be used.

“Gov­ern­ments give tax breaks, or reg­u­la­tions are push­ing peo­ple, to do that but the re­al­ity is that in mar­kets where they are be­ing sold to­day, most peo­ple don’t plug them in all the time. They just drive them like a nor­mal car.”

Tem­plin says peo­ple con­tinue to fill their cars with petrol and the benefits of re­duc­ing CO2 emis­sions — the rea­son for gov­ern­ments sub­si­dis­ing the tech­nol­ogy — are not be­ing re­alised.

Lexus is be­lieved to be work­ing on a fuel-cell ver­sion of its LS limou­sine that could break cover in the next cou­ple of years.

Its ap­proach contrasts with that of BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi, which are push­ing ahead with plug-in vari­ants.

Benz will roll out 10 new plug-in hy­brids by 2017.

Daim­ler board mem­ber Dr Thomas We­ber says: “The plug-in hy­brid is an in­vest­ment in the fu­ture of Mercedes-Benz and we be­lieve it will be­come es­tab­lished as the suc­cess­ful tech­nol­ogy for max­i­mum ef­fi­ciency cou­pled with pow­er­ful dy­namic per­for­mance.”

Ri­val Audi plans to launch at least one plug-in hy­brid model a year, while BMW has launched the i3 and i8 plug-ins.

Porsche has plug-in ver­sions of the Cayenne hy­brid and Panam­era sedan and its 918 sports car is also a plug-in. Re­search and devel­op­ment head Wolf­gang Hatz is a fan of the tech­nol­ogy.

“I be­lieve that plug-in is a very nice tech­nol­ogy. You can drive lo­cally emis­sions-free,” Hatz says. “We have the SUV, the sedan and the sports car. So in each mar­ket we are present we have a con­cept.”

He says fuel-cell ve­hi­cles aren’t on the com­pany’s radar. “I don’t think a 911 hy­dro­gen fuel-cell car is the right an­swer. My doubt is, where does the hy­dro­gen come from?”

Crit­ics of fuel-cell ve­hi­cles point out that the most af­ford­able way to pro­duce hy­dro­gen is through frack­ing, which cre­ates ques­tions about en­vi­ron­men­tal friend­li­ness. On the other hand, many ar­gue elec­tric cars plugged in to a grid pow­ered by coal are no bet­ter than petrol cars.

Hard cell: Lexus LS hy­brid limo

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