November 08, 2002
Toyota Shelves 100 MPG Car

Here's a disappointing update on this revolutionary new car.

I had hoped to buy Toyota's new ES3 (Eco Spirit cubic) hybrid diesel-electric car which achieves a fuel consumption of 104 miles per gallon.  For information about the Toyota ES3, see the following:

ES3 Travels 100KM on 2.7 liters
Toyota Displays ES3 Concept Car at Motor Show in Frankfurt.
Toyota smashes fuel economy record 

I was even willing to go to great lengths to import the car myself from Japan or Europe if need be.

I have spent over a week trying to contact anyone at Toyota who could tell me when and where the ES3 will first go on sale, whether in Japan, in Europe, or in the US, and how soon that would be.  When I finally got through to them today, they told me that the ES3 is merely a "concept car" and that they are not going to put this car into production.  Toyota said that they do not have any plans to put anything like this into production for the foreseeable future.

This is really a shame.  For over a year now I have been saying that a diesel-electric hybrid design would really make the most sense for achieving the highest possible fuel mileage in a hybrid car because the common-rail diesel engine is so much more efficient than the carbureted gasoline engine.  I have been wondering aloud why automakers cannot seem to figure out this simple fact.  I have been lamenting the catch-22 or mismatch situation that exists because the Japanese don't do diesels and the Europeans don't do hybrids.  The Japanese have chosen to concentrate exclusively on gasoline-electric hybrids while the Europeans have chosen to concentrate exclusively on fuel-efficient common-rail diesels, but never shall the two meet.  I had estimated that by combining common-rail diesel technology with hybrid-electric technology, you should be able to achieve a fuel mileage on the order of 110 to 120 mpg and do so using today's commercial technology.

Then low and behold, along comes Toyota with their new ES3diesel-electric hybrid car, which at 104 mpg gets very close to what I had predicted a diesel-electric hybrid should be able to achieve. Furthermore, it does so using today's commercial quality materials and technology, not some prohibitively expensive space-age materials such as with VW's $1 million prototype tandem 2-seat "1 Liter" concept car,(the "sausage"), which gets 265 mpg.  So Toyota could put its new ES3hybrid diesel-electric car into production tomorrow morning if it really wanted to do so and could make a great commercial success of it.  But as Toyota told me themselves, they have no interest in doing so.

People always ask me why I am not interested in the current crop of "revolutionary" gasoline-electric hybrids such as Toyota's Prius, and they all seem shocked by my answer.  My response is that I am completely uninspired and unimpressed by the Toyota Prius, which is nothing but a piece of crap.  There is nothing "revolutionary" about the Toyota Prius.  It is a half-baked technology that is not even a step forward, not even a half-step forward.  The Prius gets 45 mpg on the highway, which is a mere 12% greater than the 40 mpg of my 1993Honda Civic, which itself is a straight internal combustion engine(not a hybrid).  The Prius is a joke!  It cannot even come close to competing with a straight internal combustion engine car like the VW Lupo 3L TDI diesel (not a hybrid), which at 87-mpg highway gets almost twice the mileage of the Prius.  That is almost a 100% improvement over the Prius, and that is without using any hybrid technology.

So please, please, don't believe all of this BS PR that Toyota has released in the last few days (as seen on EV World) about how they plan to raise the number of hybrid models to over 10 in the next few years and how they plan to sell all hybrid vehicles by 2012.(Worldwide petroleum production will have already peaked by 2012 and started its terminal decline towards final depletion, so that is kind of like closing the barn door after the horse has already escaped.)All of this "eco/green" PR from Toyota is nothing but a lot of spin and hype.  In fact, what Toyota really means in these recent announcements is that they plan to convert their most successful and lucrative SUV models over to gas-electric hybrids in the next several years, the net effect of which will be that these gas-guzzlers will get 25 to 30 mpg instead of the 15 mpg they currently get.  Some improvement!  As if that's going to make any difference!  Especially 10 years from now!

So please don't let Toyota blow their smoke up your rear-ends with their lies.  The real fact of the matter is that they have the opportunity to make a "revolutionary" coup right now with their well  tested and proven ES3 hybrid diesel-electric car, which gets 104 mpg. They could cost-effectively produce this car and could achieve great commercial success with it, as it would have overwhelming demand, if they would only do so.  But unfortunately, as Toyota told me today, they have no interest in doing so.

I have come to the unfortunate conclusion that Toyota is just as regressive, obstructionist, and engaging in tokenism as their American competitors -- Ford, GM, and Daimler-Chrysler.  They are not even so much competitors as they are co-conspirators in their efforts to drag their feet and block any real improvements.  They are all in one incestuous bed together.  Toyota is simply not genuine.  They are as hypocritical as all the other automakers.  Today I told Toyota that I am very disappointed in them and that I would never buy a car from them.

Copyright 2002 Charles Whalen

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Toyota, like most companies, are on the make for big profits - NOW! They make big bucks on their SUV, and they are disinterested in the negative environmental consequences. Concept cars are a token gesture, soley for public relations purposes. About 20 years ago, VW was working on a diesel electric, they are still working on a diesel electric. If the government imposed a whopping big tax on cars based on their fuel economy - how the situation might change. It's not technology - it's politics. Don't blame only the corporations, they respond only to what they have to do while making as much money as possible and as quickly as possible - the environment be damned!

Ps. I agree, the Prius is crap!

Posted by: Harold S Kramer on November 19, 2002 11:33 AM

Being one of about 5,500 members on the Toyota-Prius mailing list, I think you're working yourself into a self-righteous lather - it must be very satisfying somehow.

The Prius is NOT meant to be a high-mileage car, which appears to be your single-minded focus. It's a LOW-EMISSIONS vehicle, and the high mileage is just a sweet side-benefit (I get as much as 100 MPG by employing skilled techniques at rare intervals).

The Prius is quite successful, as an ultra-dependable and safe car (I love mine), as a low-emissions vehicle (Super-Ultra-Low Emissions... Try doing THAT with a sooty diesel) and as a statement of change - My old Dodge mini-van cost me three times as much for fuel. I'm thrilled to pay $13 for gas for a round-trip jaunt to Palm Springs from San Diego for four days, transporting three large, corn-fed men and all of their luggage in comfort. That may not be good enough for your (obviously exalted) sensibilities, but it's always a party at the pump for me. I'm satisfied that I'm doing my part to change the world - I can't plant a tree every day, but I'm still contributing to a better panet.

Can you say the same? It's awfully easy to whine and rant (there's no responsibility involved). Actions are much more valuable, but they do require responsibility. Any child can destroy (just hand a two-year-old a hammer) but it takes a grownup to build something that endures. What are you doing to balance your karma?

Posted by: Papa Tony on November 20, 2002 11:29 AM

I'm one of only about 600 owners of a Toyota Prius in Germany. Those claiming it's "crap" have surely never driven one: The handling is superb (you'll never again enjoy a VW Golf or anything else in the same class), the technology outstanding, and more than 100,000 Prii sold worldwide with 5-year warranty (in the U.S. it's even more) also speaks a clear language. In terms of reliability, it's co-leading in its class together with the Corolla; in Sweden it got one of the best ratings ever given to a car! Here's crap for you!

When I wanted a new car, I wanted to have a small environmental footprint, that's low toxic emissio (ruling out diesels) and good mileage. The Prius is also superior to the (smaller) 3l-diesels from a technological point of view (no running ICE in stop-and-slow situations, regenerative breaking). Comparing a Prius to a 3l-Lupo just in terms of mileage is sheer ignorance: You have to consider emissions as well, but also factors like size of the car, handling, comfort and so on.

In Germany, there's no alternative hybrid car as the Honda Civic Hybrid is not available. I'd still go for the Prius (I love mine!) due to the possibility of going electric-only. Also
the mileage display really changes your driving style, making you aware of the impact on your mileage right away.

In my eyes, the Prius is one of the best cars produced. I agree that most concept cars are token gestures; only Honda and Toyota got those concepts on the road as cars for everyone; and only Toyota is really pushing the envelope selling their Prius in Europe as well and gathering first road experience with fuel cell cars in the U.S. and Japan. I do hope to see a lot more of them in the future!

Posted by: Dr. Eduard Werner on November 20, 2002 12:20 PM

I must agree with Charles reaction to what Toyota told him on that unfortunate day. Yet Harold it is not about the government. The government can't run everything and we wouldn't want the government running things. The problem is with Toyota and the consumer. SUVs are advertised as off road super monster vehicles that can take on anything mother nature can throw at it. When in real life then can't even handle the sharp turns of the concrete jungle and the most off-road they get is a soccer field when mom has to pick up the kids. The reason Toyota sells them is because they sell. Businees from my young perspective is ruled by supply and demand. Get rid of the demand and companies like Toyota will not sell them. What is trully disgusting is the new Hummer SUV hybrids. Sadly it is the only hybrid Toyota will produce. Frankly I don't know much about the Prius so I will keep my big mouth shut

Posted by: Jason Janson on November 25, 2002 02:49 PM

With all of the Prius and diesel engine bashing some points have been missed. First while it is disappointing that Toyota will not go to market with their concept car, the concept has been proven. Hybrids work, and by most accounts the one produced by Toyota works well. Second, diesels are no longer noisy and sooty. Not only did the one used in ES3 project get high fuel economy, it also met the same emissions standards required of gasoline engines. Commercially produced diesels are doing the same thing right now.

If one is still unconvinced that diesels are a viable green alternative because of emissions, try changing to a biofuel. Diesels can run on biodiesel (processed vegetable oil) without modification and straight vegetable oil with some modification. Particulate emissions with this fuel is reduced 40%-60% over regular diesel, and that is without adding technology to reduce it further. In fact the first diesel engine was demonstrated with peanut oil as a fuel. I'll leave it to you to speculate as to why we are still using fossil fuels in a diesel engine a full century after its invention.

High mileage and low emissions are laudable goals. I drive a '93 Geo Metro that still beats most cars in mileage and emissions. However, source of the problem is petroleum-based fuels. If you're using them, and I include myself on that list, then you'll never resolve the problem. Even if you drive a 100% electric car, if you're charging from a coal fired power plant, you haven't dodged the bullet.

A diesel-electric hybrid could close the loop by using a renewable source of fuel, and do so very efficiently. The best part is that we can do this today.

Posted by: Obsidian on December 18, 2002 02:44 PM

I own a two tractor vineyard which operate entirely on recycled vegetable oil bio-fuels and a Toyota Prius. I would love a diesel/electric hybrid.

Posted by: Kurt Schoeneman on January 12, 2003 01:09 PM
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