Jim Lentz, President of Toyota’s U.S. sales operations, has officially declared the Tundra Hybrid dead. While we had determined that the Tundra Hybrid was due out in 2009 as a 2010 model, Lentz stated that “different models require different types of fuel saving technology…there may be a few [models] where hybrid technology doesn’t make sense“. Lentz then went on to say that diesel engine offerings in the larger vehicles (Tundra and Sequoia) will be both clean and very efficient.
NOTE: Toyota backed off their commitment to build a diesel version of the Toyota Tundra as well. Follow the link for more info.
So Toyota’s stated goal of offering a hybrid version of each of their vehicles by 2012 is officially off the table. Some environmental groups are dismayed that Toyota has backed off their plan – Toyota has long been a leader in the field of hybrid drive trains and environmentally friendly vehicles.
Here’s a trivia fact: the U.S. Army 1st Armored Division uses approximately 600,000 gallons of fuel.
That’s enough fuel to fill-up all the Tundra’s sold in June 07′. It’s enough fuel to coat a standard football field in 17 inches of fuel (trying running a sweep in that mess). It’s also enough fuel to drive your new Tundra for the next 720 years.
In other words, it’s a lot. Too much if you ask the US Army. Considering that 70% of what the Army hauls to the battlefield is fuel (not ammo, not food, but fuel), any opportunities to reduce fuel consumption are investigated seriously. That’s why the Army gave Quantum Technologies of Irvine, CA a $4.88 million contract to develop this prototype:
Just kidding — that’s the Warthog from Halo. Here’s the REAL prototype:
You can see how we might get the two confused.
The prototype, known as the U.S. Army Alternative Mobility Vehicle (AMV) Aggressor, is powered by a battery pack that is charged by a yet-to-be-determined diesel. While the main benefit of having a battlefield hybrid is fuel savings, the Aggressor also has a “silent” battery-only mode that allows the vehicle to move with little or no noise. Unlike most consumer hybrids, the Aggressor is fast. O-40 in about 4 seconds. We know — it’s not as fast as a new Tundra — but it’s not bad. Besides, does your Tundra have a S.A.W. attached to it?
What does this mean for us? A few things.
1. When the military develops a battlefield diesel hybrid, we’re all that much closer to seeing one parked in our own driveways.
2. Hybrid technology is powerful and durable enough to be considered for a vehicle used in combat. That means the whole “hybrid” thing is probably here to stay.
3. Toyota currently produces a diesel hybrid for sale in Japan and Australia. It’s called the Hino Dutro Hybrid. Coincidence? Definitely. But it’s easy to imagine a diesel hybrid Tundra someday soon.
Have you heard the radio ads, the ones that say that Congress is considering new fuel economy regulations? According to these ads, Congress is going to take our trucks away. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers has stated that the new fuel economy bill being proposed in Congress by Sen. Byron Dorgan, Democrat from North Dakota, will result in ALL vehicles being smaller and more expensive. The alliance says that big vehicles, like family SUVs and pick-up trucks, will be hard or impossible to manufacture if these new fuel economy regulations take effect.
Here’s a link to listen to the ad that says we’re going to lose our trucks.
Here’s the link to listen to the ad that says we’re going to lose our big, safe SUV’s.
When I first heard the ads, I thought they were right. After all, if fuel economy must improve, then maybe cars will have to get smaller. Smaller vehicles weigh less, are more aerodynamic, and don’t need to be as powerful. Smaller engines usually mean better fuel economy. It makes logical sense, right?
Making a vehicle smaller is one way of improving fuel economy, but it’s not the only way. Better technology, like hybrid drive systems, hydraulic or pneumatic energy storage, plug-in battery packs, or alternative fuels are all ways that fuel economy could be improved. Not to mention simpler market-ready technologies like lightweight materials, turbochargers and superchargers, and direct injection. The fact is, these technologies could be easily implemented in vehicles and improve fuel economy without dramatically raising new vehicle costs. But according to the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (which includes GM, Ford, DaimlerChrysler, Toyota, VW, Mazda, BMW, Mitsu, and Porsche), any gains in fuel economy must come from making smaller vehicles.
In other words, bye-bye trucks and SUVs.
Why are these automakers trying to scare us? History has shown that every time the government has mandated newer auto regulations we’ve all benefited. Seat belts and airbags were resisted by automakers, but we all know how that turned out. Now we’re supposed to believe auto manufacturers when they say that tougher fuel economy standards mean that our kids’ lives are going to be at risk riding in the backseat of a Ford Festiva and that we’re going to do our hauling in Toyota’s that look like this. (See the story behind that photo here.)
I think the radio ads are misleading. For argument’s sake, let’s say that new cars got more expensive…so what? If a new car costs $2000 more, but it saves you $800 a year in gas, doesn’t that make sense? I think auto manufacturers are against this bill because it will hurt their profits…if their costs go up, their margins will go down.
What do you think?
It is the firm belief of everyone here at TundraHeadquarters that a hybrid version of the Toyota Tundra will be available no later than 2010. We have come to this conclusion after careful study of Toyota’s product announcements and of the Tundra itself.
Specifically, we’ve found the following clues that have led us to this conclusion:
- Masatami Takimoto,a V.P. of power train development at Toyota, stated that current efforts by Toyota’s design teams to reduce costs of the key hybrid components will most likely result in the cost of hybrid powertrains to be equivalent to that of a gasoline powertrain by 2010.
We think this may be a little gamesmanship by Toyota. For years, competing automakers have argued that Toyota is selling its hybrid vehicles at a loss or for very little profit. However, if you look at Toyota’s projected hybrid sales this year (expected to be just shy of 1,000,000 vehicles) it’s clear that Toyota certainly isn’t losing money. If you consider the fact that the Prius currently is being sold with a cash incentive, it becomes obvious that Toyota is making money on ALL of their hybrid powertrains now. The writing between the lines is that all current powertrains could be produced in a hybrid configuration right now at roughly the same cost, if the market would support them. Currently Toyota’s production of hybrids is limited only by demand.
- Officials at Toyota have also been quoted as saying that expensive lithium-ion battery packs are available for installation in a hybrid vehicle at “any time”, and without a substantial cost penalty.
This is the next evolution of hybrid technology — lithium ion battery packs can hold 2 or 3 times the energy of the current nickel-metal-hydride (NMH) battery packs, will last longer, and will weigh less. Most importantly for future Tundra owners, the use of lithium ion battery packs allows economic charging from a much larger engine than the current technology. Currently a V8 is too much engine for a hybrid — a V8 can generate more power than a decent sized NMH battery pack can store. But with new lithium ion packs a large V8 could be used in a hybrid without sacrificing any efficiency. The extra storage capability of a decent sized lithium ion battery pack would prove useful in towing and hauling situations, something that can’t be said about the current NMH packs which would need to be huge to be able to offset fuel consumption for much more than stop and go traffic.
- Toyota and Isuzu are expected to make an announcement about an Isuzu diesel hybrid powertrain in July of this year.
Toyota has all but admitted it will be developing a diesel engine for the Tundra (with Isuzu’s co-operation). The upcoming announcement will most likely be simply the debut of a prototype diesel hybrid powertrain for one of Isuzu’s medium duty trucks. But that technology could EASILY be integrated into a 3/4 ton Tundra (due out in 2009). Even if Toyota doesn’t debut a diesel hybrid Tundra by 2009, the transmission used in these trucks could be adapted to a Tundra.
- On October 26th, 2005, Toyota admitted to studying the feasibility of creating a hybrid Tundra. But the finding was that the value of a hybrid powertrain is reduced for a vehicle engaged in towing and hauling due to the current NMH battery packs inability to store more than a few minutes of power.
Toyota’s admission that they have a lithium ion battery pack ready for hybrid use is an indication that an oversized battery pack could be installed in a Tundra and offer its owner improved fuel economy over a long trip, even if towing or hauling. Remember, lithium ion battery packs can store 2 – 3 times as much energy as the current technology.
Some other facts to consider:
- The Tundra has been designed to haul at least an extra 2000 lbs in just about every configuration available. Toyota could insert a fairly large battery pack into this vehicle without substantially reducing the payload rating or performance.
- The debut of the FT-HS, a 400hp hybrid sports car concept, is proof that Toyota has a transmission capable of handling a very powerful hybrid motor. The kind of powerful hybrid that would be needed in a Tundra.
- Toyota’s oversized brake system lends itself to being replaced by a regenerative braking system.
- There are a lot of indications the Tundra was designed to be as lightweight as possible, even if the expense was greater. The frame isn’t fully boxed, special (and more expensive) coatings were used on all the wiring, aluminum is used in many places on the vehicle where steel (which is cheaper) would have been good enough, etc. Obviously, light weight is key in a hybrid.
- Dodge’s new Hemi will debut in 2008 with a hybrid option. Ford’s new F150 rolls out in 2009, with the expectation being that the segment leader will bring a hybrid option to the table as well. Finally, the GM products are expected to offer an upgrade to the hybrid system currently available to fleet users within the next year or two. Toyota must respond.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, conservative estimates of U.S. gasoline prices show that a gallon of fuel will cost $3.50-$4.50 by 2010. The market demand for a hybrid truck, even if it only improved fuel economy by 25%, would be HUGE. Remember that Toyota said by 2010 all of their current gasoline powertrains could be replaced by hybrid powertrains at no additional cost? That’s Toyota’s way of saying they could bring a hybrid Tundra to market at the same cost as the current Tundra. Put another way, Toyota’s risk of developing a hybrid Tundra is reduced if they don’t have to charge a premium for the technology. After all, if a consumer can buy a hybrid for the same amount of money as a gas engine, most will do so. As long as the hybrid option sells in volume it will be a profitable choice for Toyota.
We think the first hybrid Tundras will be CrewMaxs. They are the most profitable and are also the vehicles most likely to be used as a commute vehicle. Since the value of a hybrid Tundra will be limited for anyone doing constant towing and hauling, you’ll still see the 5.7L non-hybrid as an option. Also, expect to see the smaller single cab Tundra V6 offered in a hybrid. There is no reason that a lot of the current systems can’t be adapted to a 2wd Tundra single cab, and the fuel economy gain would be significant for a lot of fleet users. However, Toyota’s fleet sales will have to skyrocket for this option to appear before the more consumer oriented Tundra CrewMax hybrid.
Bottomline: A hybrid version of the Tundra will debut in 2009 as a 2010 model. It will feature the 4.7L V8 and a hybrid charging system that will give the truck 400hp and limitless torque. We think the fuel savings will vary by user, but expect the fuel economy rating to be about 20mpg city, 25mpg highway.
Our recommendation: Lease your next new Tundra for 2 or 3 years.
TundraHeadquarters.com is not affiliated with Toyota Motor Company.