Toyota Tundra Hybrid No Later Than 2010!
It is the firm belief of everyone here at TundraHeadquarters that a hybrid version of the Toyota Tundra will be available no later than 2010. We have come to this conclusion after careful study of Toyota’s product announcements and of the Tundra itself.
Specifically, we’ve found the following clues that have led us to this conclusion:
- Masatami Takimoto,a V.P. of power train development at Toyota, stated that current efforts by Toyota’s design teams to reduce costs of the key hybrid components will most likely result in the cost of hybrid powertrains to be equivalent to that of a gasoline powertrain by 2010.
We think this may be a little gamesmanship by Toyota. For years, competing automakers have argued that Toyota is selling its hybrid vehicles at a loss or for very little profit. However, if you look at Toyota’s projected hybrid sales this year (expected to be just shy of 1,000,000 vehicles) it’s clear that Toyota certainly isn’t losing money. If you consider the fact that the Prius currently is being sold with a cash incentive, it becomes obvious that Toyota is making money on ALL of their hybrid powertrains now. The writing between the lines is that all current powertrains could be produced in a hybrid configuration right now at roughly the same cost, if the market would support them. Currently Toyota’s production of hybrids is limited only by demand.
- Officials at Toyota have also been quoted as saying that expensive lithium-ion battery packs are available for installation in a hybrid vehicle at “any time”, and without a substantial cost penalty.
This is the next evolution of hybrid technology — lithium ion battery packs can hold 2 or 3 times the energy of the current nickel-metal-hydride (NMH) battery packs, will last longer, and will weigh less. Most importantly for future Tundra owners, the use of lithium ion battery packs allows economic charging from a much larger engine than the current technology. Currently a V8 is too much engine for a hybrid — a V8 can generate more power than a decent sized NMH battery pack can store. But with new lithium ion packs a large V8 could be used in a hybrid without sacrificing any efficiency. The extra storage capability of a decent sized lithium ion battery pack would prove useful in towing and hauling situations, something that can’t be said about the current NMH packs which would need to be huge to be able to offset fuel consumption for much more than stop and go traffic.
- Toyota and Isuzu are expected to make an announcement about an Isuzu diesel hybrid powertrain in July of this year.
Toyota has all but admitted it will be developing a diesel engine for the Tundra (with Isuzu’s co-operation). The upcoming announcement will most likely be simply the debut of a prototype diesel hybrid powertrain for one of Isuzu’s medium duty trucks. But that technology could EASILY be integrated into a 3/4 ton Tundra (due out in 2009). Even if Toyota doesn’t debut a diesel hybrid Tundra by 2009, the transmission used in these trucks could be adapted to a Tundra.
- On October 26th, 2005, Toyota admitted to studying the feasibility of creating a hybrid Tundra. But the finding was that the value of a hybrid powertrain is reduced for a vehicle engaged in towing and hauling due to the current NMH battery packs inability to store more than a few minutes of power.
Toyota’s admission that they have a lithium ion battery pack ready for hybrid use is an indication that an oversized battery pack could be installed in a Tundra and offer its owner improved fuel economy over a long trip, even if towing or hauling. Remember, lithium ion battery packs can store 2 – 3 times as much energy as the current technology.
Some other facts to consider:
- The Tundra has been designed to haul at least an extra 2000 lbs in just about every configuration available. Toyota could insert a fairly large battery pack into this vehicle without substantially reducing the payload rating or performance.
- The debut of the FT-HS, a 400hp hybrid sports car concept, is proof that Toyota has a transmission capable of handling a very powerful hybrid motor. The kind of powerful hybrid that would be needed in a Tundra.
- Toyota’s oversized brake system lends itself to being replaced by a regenerative braking system.
- There are a lot of indications the Tundra was designed to be as lightweight as possible, even if the expense was greater. The frame isn’t fully boxed, special (and more expensive) coatings were used on all the wiring, aluminum is used in many places on the vehicle where steel (which is cheaper) would have been good enough, etc. Obviously, light weight is key in a hybrid.
- Dodge’s new Hemi will debut in 2008 with a hybrid option. Ford’s new F150 rolls out in 2009, with the expectation being that the segment leader will bring a hybrid option to the table as well. Finally, the GM products are expected to offer an upgrade to the hybrid system currently available to fleet users within the next year or two. Toyota must respond.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, conservative estimates of U.S. gasoline prices show that a gallon of fuel will cost $3.50-$4.50 by 2010. The market demand for a hybrid truck, even if it only improved fuel economy by 25%, would be HUGE. Remember that Toyota said by 2010 all of their current gasoline powertrains could be replaced by hybrid powertrains at no additional cost? That’s Toyota’s way of saying they could bring a hybrid Tundra to market at the same cost as the current Tundra. Put another way, Toyota’s risk of developing a hybrid Tundra is reduced if they don’t have to charge a premium for the technology. After all, if a consumer can buy a hybrid for the same amount of money as a gas engine, most will do so. As long as the hybrid option sells in volume it will be a profitable choice for Toyota.
We think the first hybrid Tundras will be CrewMaxs. They are the most profitable and are also the vehicles most likely to be used as a commute vehicle. Since the value of a hybrid Tundra will be limited for anyone doing constant towing and hauling, you’ll still see the 5.7L non-hybrid as an option. Also, expect to see the smaller single cab Tundra V6 offered in a hybrid. There is no reason that a lot of the current systems can’t be adapted to a 2wd Tundra single cab, and the fuel economy gain would be significant for a lot of fleet users. However, Toyota’s fleet sales will have to skyrocket for this option to appear before the more consumer oriented Tundra CrewMax hybrid.
Bottomline: A hybrid version of the Tundra will debut in 2009 as a 2010 model. It will feature the 4.7L V8 and a hybrid charging system that will give the truck 400hp and limitless torque. We think the fuel savings will vary by user, but expect the fuel economy rating to be about 20mpg city, 25mpg highway.
Our recommendation: Lease your next new Tundra for 2 or 3 years.
TundraHeadquarters.com is not affiliated with Toyota Motor Company.