Toyota to Introduce Electric Car to U.S. by 2012

Company plans to boost its gas-electric hybrid offerings to as many as 10 models in the early years of the next decade

Toyota Motor said on Jan. 10 it plans to launch an electric car in the U.S. by 2012 and boost its gas-electric hybrid offerings to as many as ten models in the early years of the next decade. Toyota said the announcement signals its intention to "broaden the scope of its advanced alternative-fuel vehicle development."

Toyota debuted the prototype of its electric car, the FT-EV, at the Detroit auto show. The two-seater hatchback shares its platform with Toyota's tiny iQ, a gasoline-powered four-seater which was recently launched in Japan.

"Last summer's $4-a-gallon gasoline was no anomaly. It was a brief glimpse of our future," said Irv Miller, vice president of environmental and public affairs for Toyota Motor Sales USA. "We must address the inevitability of peak oil by developing vehicles powered by alternatives to liquid-oil fuel, as well as new concepts, like the iQ, that are lighter in weight and smaller in size."

While electric and small commuter vehicles will be a "key component of Toyota's sustainable mobility strategy," the automaker said that the conventional gas-electric hybrid is "considered Toyota's long-term core powertrain technology."

Toyota announced plans last year to sell a million hybrids a year by sometime in the early 2010s.

A third-generation Prius and the all new Lexus HS250h are the first two of as many as 10 new hybrid models Toyota plans to launch in that time frame.

The automaker also announced plans to speed up the delivery of plug-in hybrid vehicles by delivering 500 test vehicles to lease-fleet customers around the world in late 2009 rather than in 2010.

"Future customers will have high expectations for these emerging technologies," Miller said. "This Prius PHV fleet program is a key first step in confirming how and when we might bring large numbers of plug-in hybrids to global markets."

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009

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