Toyota questions price and durability of plug-in hybrids

Even though as President Barack Obama pitches for 1 million plug-in hybrid electric vehicles on U.S. roads by 2015, Toyota says that consumer demand for such vehicles is limited by the price, recharge time and battery durability.

Toyota estimates that plug-in hybrids may account for 50,000 units a year and could be as little as 3,500. The manufacturer of the Toyota Prius sold 159,000 units of its gasoline-hybrid electric-vehicles last year.

Two months ago, President Barack Obama promoted a $2 billion battery research program that was included in his economic stimulus plan. During his campaign, Obama pledged to have 1 million plug-in hybrid EVs on the road by 2015. The Department of Energy said earlier this month that it plans to begin awarding a portion of $25 billion in low-cost loans to companies that produce plug-in hybrids in U.S. facilities.

Toyota has yet to announce any firm plans on plug-in hybrids for its lineup. Honda has confirmed that it is studying plug-in hybrids but has no plans for consumer sales. Both Japanese automakers say that plug-in hybrid technology adds at least $5,000 to $10,000 to a vehicle’s sale price.

Toyota is preparing to deploy over 500 new generation PHVs in Europe, Japan and the U.S. by 2010.

– By: Kap Shah

Source: Bloomberg