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‘I don’t think IC engine’s appeal will diminish’

S Muralidhar | Updated on October 11, 2018 Published on October 11, 2018

Takashi Uehara

Toyota’s Chief Engineer believes that electric vehicles still have a distance to go

Toyota Motor Corporation has targeted an electrified version of every model it sells by 2025. By 2030, over 60 per cent of all Toyotas sold will be either a battery, fuel-cell vehicle or a hybrid. Takashi Uehara, Chief Engineer, Powertrain Product Planning Division, Powertrain Company of TMC Japan, spoke to BusinessLine on the sidelines of the recently held FISITA World Automotive Congress in Chennai. Excerpts:

Why is the electric vehicle being considered the future especially when the internal combustion (IC) engine has not lost its relevance?

I personally don’t think that the IC engine’s appeal will be diminished for the future. It will survive for a very long time because crude oil-based fuels are easy to handle with a high energy density. On the other hand, electricity is very difficult to store and deliver, which means that, in terms of practicality, EVs have a distance to go.

Any further improvements to the IC engine are going to be tough. Based on the current technology, the cost of incremental jumps in efficiency is going to be much higher even though it may not have plateaued and improvements may as yet be possible. This is why I believe we have to study both electrification as a consistent strategy, but also continue to research efficiency improvements for the ICE.

Do you think the HEV (hybrid electric) is the most ideal solution for India?

Unless there is a big breakthrough in the future, which makes other electrified vehicles more affordable, the HEV is probably more likely to spread as the choice to reduce CO2 emissions, and without too much dependence on Government subsidies.

Also, the technology employed in HEV can also be used for the PHEV, fuel-cell and full EVs etc. So, we will have to make the choice of powertrain to supply to each region of the world after looking at the local conditions. Currently, the HEV could be the better choice for India.

Can Toyota source locally and produce cars like the Prius in India to bring down costs? Will EMCC be used as a platform for emerging markets?

To answer the first part of your question, it depends on the quality of the parts that we can source locally. We can cooperate with Indian suppliers to improve quality and meet our higher standards and requirements.

We can look at a future where we source locally in India. There could also be vehicles that are developed specifically for markets like these by using some of the systems in vehicles developed for specific markets.

Yes, the emerging markets compact car company (EMCC) has been created for exploring new avenues. There is a possibility that it will be used for creating EVs, which are relevant to emerging markets.

Before HEVs can become affordable in markets like India, can small parallel-assist mild hybrids or range-extender style combination of a small ICE and battery electric motors work?

In the past, we have already developed and introduced small or mild hybrids in the Japanese market. We have experience in this prior category too already. At the moment though, we have judged the market and feel that we should only go with a strong hybrid system in terms of performance and price.

Published on October 11, 2018
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