Toyota plans launch of gas/electric hybrid car

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TOKYO -- Toyota Motor Corp. plans to market hybrid cars that use a regular gasoline motor in conjunction with an electric motor in the U.S. and Europe after the car's launch in Japan later this year.

Akihiro Wada, the automaker's executive vice president, says U.S. and Europe will be targeted soon after the car's Japanese debut. But an exact date for the car's launch on the consumer market is difficult to set, according to a company spokesman, because various testing procedures and patent applications for the environmentally friendly automobile are still pending.

Advertising for the car is being handled by Dentsu Inc. as part of Toyota's Eco Project - a major nationwide campaign, authorized by Toyota's five dealership divisions, which focuses on the car manufacturer's environmental protection initiatives.The hybrid car is featured in the campaign for its reduced CO2 emissions and lower exhaust levels.

The hybrid car uses a gasoline engine, electric motor and electric generator to achieve nearly twice the fuel efficiency of conventional gasoline powered cars.

Reports from in-house testing claim a hybrid car with a 1.5 liter engine has about 50% less carbon dioxide emissions compared with a 1.5 liter gasoline powered Corolla model car.

Other types of emission are about one-tenth that of conventional combustion engine emissions.

The hybrid system engages the gasoline-powered engine or the electric engine depending on driving conditions. Based on its own testing, Toyota claims the hybrid car does about 28 kilometers per liter. The four-cylinder gasoline engine, which has been refined to maximum efficiency, is the car's main source of power.

The hybrid cars works by shifting from its gas engine to electric engine depending on how the car is being used. The car has a transmission that supplies energy to the driving mechanism from the electric engine in order to supplement the power generated by the gasoline engine.

Toyota is gearing up for mass-production in Japan of cars with the hybrid engine.

Copyright July 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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