Why Hybrid Vehicles?
Contributed by: Chador Wangdi, GM Toyota, STCBL
Of late, I have attended Toyota hybrid media trip in Japan, which was organised by Toyota Motor Asia Pacific Corporation (TMAP) Singapore. I was one among 200 plus participants from 23 countries across Asia and the Middle East.
Toyota hybrid technology is relatively new in Asia and the Middle East regions. Consumers are therefore apprehensive of Hybrid Vehicles (HV) and its technology. As a result, the sales volume in these regions remains low to poor. Limited understanding of the Hybrid technology was the main reason for the poor response from consumers. Like me, there were many participants expressing similar kinds of concerns on Hybrid Technology. Participants sought clarification on risk of battery explosion during accidents, replacement cost of battery, and shelf life of battery, among others.
Bhutan launched Hybrid cars in December 2014 but the response from customers remains poor. Although price could be one of the detrimental factors for low response, it was however not the only reason. STCBL, as the sole Toyota distributor in the country, feels the imperative need to educate our valued customers and disseminate necessary information about hybrid vehicles and its technology.
Therefore, I would like to share some key points on HV and its Technology for the benefit of our valued customers.
1. Why Toyota Invented Hybrid Technology?
Emission of greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide (CO2) continues to cause a rapid change in weather patterns and climate conditions. Air quality particularly in urban centres has been deteriorating over the years. And the impact of climate change is visible and felt across the globe. As a result, Toyota was prompted to seek alternative approaches of showcasing its environmental initiatives across all aspects of its business and beyond.
After the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, Toyota immediately announced Toyota Earth Charter outlining its environmental philosophies and principles. Toyota’s environment philosophies were founded on the three pillars of ‘Contributing to Low carbon society, Recycling-based society, and Environmental protection for harmonious living with nature.’
As a manufacturing company, Toyota is serious about reduction of CO2 emissions at all stages of vehicle lifecycle, including development and design, production, logistics and sales. Toyota therefore ventured into research and development of fuel efficient and environmental friendly vehicles, which dates back to 1968 where Toyota first started developing Hybrid vehicles. The research eventually culminated into the launch of the world’s first mass production of Hybrid Vehicles known as ‘Prius’ in 1997. Since then, it has sold 9 million Hybrid vehicles as on May 2016.
Compared to conventional vehicles, Toyota Hybrids have collectively saved 67 million tons of CO2, which would otherwise require an area of approximately 22,000 square Kilometers of tropical rainforest to absorb that amount of CO2. It has also saved 25 million kilolitres of gasoline, which is equivalent to saving of Nu. 1.32 billion to country’s fuel imports.
2. What is Hybrid Technology?
A Hybrid Vehicle is a vehicle that uses two power sources, viz. Gasoline Engine and Electric Motor, which bring about greater fuel efficiency. By combining the benefits of Gasoline Engine and Electric Motor, HV offers excellent driving performance and eco- friendliness. When hybrid vehicles are in EV mode, only electric motor works and therefore no CO2 is emitted.
While starting a car and for light-load driving, electronic motor drives the wheel by using electricity from battery. In a normal driving condition, the engine will split into two power sources; viz. for driving wheels and for feeding generator/motor to supplement engine power. Excess electricity during light –load driving is charged to battery.
When the vehicle is in full acceleration mode, battery supplies more power to drive the electric motor. As a result, it gains power during uphill drive. During the deceleration, meaning down hill drive and breaking; regenerative braking recharges battery automatically. Therefore, no charging station is required. This entails no investment requirements from the government unlike Electric Vehicles. It also saves fuel consumption.
Toyota’s continuous effort to improve HV has resulted in unbelievable fuel efficiency over different Hybrid generations. The most recent 4th generation Prius gives fuel mileage of 40.8 km/l which is 25.2% improvement from the 3rd generation Prius. It is the hottest selling model in Japan, US and Europe. Likewise, powertrain of Prius has also improved by 18.2% from the previous generation.
For a Toyota customer, it has lot of benefits and reason to use Hybrid vehicle for personal convenience. It has huge cost saving on fuel. Intrinsically, it helps to save environment, reduce noise pollution and fuel import into the country.
3. Safety Features of Hybrid Vehicles
Loss of human lives through roads accidents is inevitable when millions of vehicles ply on the roads. However, it can be mitigated through integrated approach of safety regulations. Vehicles should have safety features and road users should be educated and government infra- structure should support safe transport system.
Realizing the importance of saving human lives, Toyota has incorporated safety features meant to cover every aspect of driving in vehicles. It has collision-absorbing body structure, seatbelts and airbags, which are termed as ‘Passive Safety Features’. These safety features save lives of passengers during accidents.
To protect HV Battery from explosion during accidents, HV Battery is placed underneath the rear seat where body rigidity of the car is high. Electric wires are properly insulated to avoid electricity leakages. It has motherboard known as ‘Blocks’ that controls the functions of HV. It is a smart and intelligent car. Despite achieving 9 millions, HV sales globally, not a single case of electric accidents were reported. This is a clear case of HV vehicles being safe from electrical shocks and accidents.
In addition to above, Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS) is one of the safety features incorporated in HV to prevent brakes from locking during emergency braking. Vehicle Stability Control (VCS) is another safety feature, which helps to prevent the wheels from slipping sideways during sudden steering to prevent skids. VSC safety features are useful during slippery road conditions.
Pre-Collision System (PCS) is an additional feature Toyota has recently incorporated in HV. It will alert the Driver with audio and visual warnings of possible collision. If a driver fails to apply brake, the system will assist automatically and stop the vehicle. This will further avoid road accidents.
4. Hybrid Battery Testing?
Upon invention of Hybrid Vehicles, the production of high voltage battery was inevitable. Toyota has started producing HV battery since 1997. Come December 2016, Toyota will achieve 10 million HV battery packages.
Prior to dispatch of HV battery to assembly lines, thorough tests are conducted. Known as Free Fall Test, the HV battery is dropped from a 10-metre height with equivalent weight on the top to see the impact on the battery. Likewise a bucket of water is poured on HV battery to confirm leakages of water into HV battery. As such, no explosion and leakages were observed as the battery is concealed properly for all kind of penetration, crushing and external short-circuit.
Additionally, the good news for customers is that the battery is life-long, meaning customers need not worry about replacement of HV battery.
5. Why choose Toyota Hybrid Vehicles?
Toyota customers have many good reasons to choose Toyota Hybrid Vehicles. Like any gasoline vehicles, Toyota customer can use Hybrid vehicle without having to worry about charging stations like Electrical Vehicles. HV battery is not only auto recharged while acceleration and breaking the vehicle, HV battery is a life of car. HV battery is safe from all kinds of damages.
Technically, Toyota has earned global leadership in Hybrid Technology. 9 million Hybrid Vehicles have already hit the roads of Japan, US and Europe. In developed countries, HVs are more sought in the market than conventional vehicles.
Government and policy makers also support promotion of Hybrid vehicles through tax concessions as it has lots of intrinsic benefits to environment, noise pollution and economy of the country.
It is inferred from the above that Hybrid Vehicle has many advantageous over conventional gasoline vehicle. Customer can choose HV for their personal convenience. It can save 50% on fuel cost and enjoy sound free driving.
No investment is required unlike EV. Government can therefore promote HV. It has huge cost saving on fuel imports besides reducing environment pollution. It will also mitigate trade deficit in the country.