Insight: Toyota-Tesla Partnership “Marred By Clashes Between Engineers”

3 years ago by Jay Cole 94

The Toyota RAV4 EV (like this one we took a shot of split in half at the recent LA Auto Show) Is Built In Canada, But Sold In California Only

The Toyota RAV4 EV Has Its Electric Drivetrain Build In California, Then Shipped To Canada To Be Built, Then Shipped Back To California To Be Sold (Photo: InsideEVs from the LA Auto Show)

Now that the Toyota-Tesla collaboration on the all-electric RAV4 EV has wound down, we are starting to hear reports that the relationship between the two companies have been a little stressful ever since Toyota’s President Akio Toyoda paid a visit to Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s house to take his Roadster for a spin 4 years ago.

Tesla's Influence Can Clearly Be Seen In The Toyota RAV4 EV

Tesla’s Influence Can Clearly Be Seen In The Toyota RAV4 EV

Bloomberg revisits the relationship they say has now been “marred by clashes between engineers” that once saw Toyota not only invest in Tesla Motors to the tune of $50 million, but quickly become a design and manufacturing partners on the all-electric SUV.

While the deal was to build 2,600 RAV4 EVs to satisfy CARB requirements in the US for Toyota, the two expected to continue their joint efforts in potentially manufacturing a future, higher volume EV together; instead Toyota now looks to fuel cells to fill the void left in the electric vehicle landscape…a technology which Musk has been quick to question the validity of.

“They’re (FCVs) mind-bogglingly stupid.  You can’t even have a sensible debate.” – Clearly, the Tesla CEO was not worried about his relationship with Toyota when he made this statement in January.

Bloomberg reports that getting the RAV4 EV to market quickly potentially drove a wedge between the two companies’ engineers.

“It didn’t take long before conflicts began to emerge, people familiar with the project said. According to two former engineers at the companies, when Tesla engineers presented Toyota with early design proposals for the RAV4 EV, Toyota’s team balked at the lack of a common car component called the parking pawl — the part of the transmission that backs up the parking brake.

Instead, Tesla proposed putting in an electronic parking brake after the company experienced difficulties with the pawl it used when developing the Roadster, one person said. Toyota’s engineers were impervious and the pawl was put into the RAV4 EV.”

Other conflicts included:

  • Toyota rejected Tesla’s proposal for an enclosure to protect the bottom of the RAV4 EV’s battery pack, and at some point Toyota ended up taking over responsibilities from Tesla for the enclosures and the structural integrity itself
  • Toyota’s rejection of Tesla’s proprietary regenerative braking system, as it enabled the system upon release of the accelerator which Toyota felt was too abrupt and disconcerting for their customers.  Any adjustment meant opening up and sharing either Tesla or Toyota’s “code” – of which neither was willing to do

Tesla’s Simon Sproule wouldn’t comment on the partnership, but John Hanson, a Toyota spokesman did open up a little to Bloomberg and tried to put a positive light on it.

“You had a case of two very different companies with different approaches. Sure, it was a difficult project, but it also had a very tight time deadline and the product came out on schedule.”

Apparently the failure of the Toyota relationship has not soured Tesla on the merits of having a partner as the company was quick to also team up with Daimler on their all-electric Mercedes-Benz B-Class ED that just went on sale last month.

Editor’s Note:  We would be remiss to not note that part-time InsideEVs contributor Tony Williams offered a quote to Bloomberg on his 2012 Toyota RAV4 EV itself after having it in the shop for more than 30 days – “The RAV4 is a frickin’ nightmare”

…so maybe it is best after all if the two companies go their separate ways?

Bloomberg

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94 responses to "Insight: Toyota-Tesla Partnership “Marred By Clashes Between Engineers”"

  1. Anon says:

    Toyota’s people have an industry reputation for being difficult to work with… And I’m being VERY diplomatic here.

    1. GeorgeS says:

      I can relate to your story Anon as I had the pleasure of working with German Airbus engineers on the APU for the A320 series passenger planes. Sounds like Toyota engineers are very similar….. excellent engineers but stubborn as mules.

      1. Bob G. says:

        I see the two as mutually exclusive. A good engineer should *always* be willing to follow the facts, no matter how inconvenient.

        1. Scramjett says:

          +1

          I’m an engineer and I wholeheartedly endorse your message!

    2. EvDeath says:

      Really? Difficult to work with? Have you worked with many? After all Toyota taught Tesla how to build cars.

      1. liberty says:

        When did toyota teach tesla to build cars. The roadster and model S are quite different than anything toyota makes.

        1. Scramjett says:

          Yes, this is readily apparent as Tesla’s cars are the most fun to drive and best to look at while Toyota cars are butt ugly and boring as hell to drive!

          (That’s not sarcasm by the way, I hate driving Toyota’s, while the Model S I test drove was the most fun I ever had in a car).

      2. Omar Sultan says:

        And Demming taught Toyota how to build cars – goes around. 🙂

  2. DaveMart says:

    Before we get all the posts about how Musk is not only a genius but infallible, and Toyota clearly incapable of building anything as complex as an advanced car, it might be worthwhile knowing who is the Chairman of the board at Toyota:

    ‘Toyota Chairman Uchiyamada, Father of the Prius, Foresees Long Run for Hybrids’

    And:

    ‘Toyota offers more types of hybrids than any other manufacturer. As of March, it had sold 5 million hybrid vehicles around the world. And the Prius alone hit a cumulative level of 3 million sales globally in June.

    But the auto industry will need to strive even harder to achieve ambitious mileage standards established by the Obama Administration. “Today I wish to call on the industry to sell 5 million hybrids in the U.S. by the end of 2016,” Uchiyamada said. “It’s only when we put ourselves under the same kind of intense pressure we faced in developing the Prius that we can achieve great goals. That’s what it takes. I want our industry to achieve this goal.”

    Over the longer term, Uchiyamada said he was particularly excited by a new hydrogen fuel cell vehicle the company is developing, which will have zero tail pipe emissions. Without the issues of driving range and charging time that electric vehicles have, “I personally expect a lot from this hydrogen fuel cell technology,” he said. “Perhaps 15 years from now, we can meet again here in Washington and we will know exactly which system has prevailed,” he added.’

    http://corporatenews.pressroom.toyota.com/releases/tmc+chairman+uchiyamada+hybrid+future.htm

    So the boss at Toyota is himself a considerable engineer, not some business school graduate unable to understand technical issues.

    1. Anon says:

      Sorry Dave, but this isn’t about who is an engineer and who isn’t. You’ve never had to deal with Toyota’s corporate culture, have you? Anyone outside of Toyota, hired to assist in these special projects that involve outside parties– are treated quite poorly by their internal engineers and corporate staff. They hide behind MOUNTAINS of bizarrely hyper-anal-retentive notes and comments, thinly covered by false politeness. They will not compromise on anything, as they make it more than clear they’re superior to anyone they have to deal with; they just refuse to listen to reason. The truth is, they are absolute dicks to work with.

      I’m glad Tesla’s people do not have to endure their high-and-mighty egos any longer. I know my team was overjoyed when their project finally ended. 🙂

      Look at it like this… How many outstanding recalls does Toyota have? How many for the Model S? Toyota took over the Rav4 project, and look what they did to it. I have NO DOUBT it could have been sooo much better, if their people would have dropped the ego, and cooperated fully with Tesla’s folks.

      Proof is in the product, and that speaks far louder than anyone’s paper rant.

      1. DaveMart says:

        I’m not disagreeing with what you posted about Toyota being difficult to deal with or I would have given it as a response to your post instead of separately.

        Sorry if that was unclear.

      2. EvDeath says:

        That’s strange our group had an entirely different experience, and along the way we got to meet most of the engineers working with Tesla. Real stand up guys, not a all pricks. They are set in their ways because, as pointed out elsewhere, they’re not going to take chances.

        I think your problem might have been that most people new to Toyota can’t keep up the pace. They are a bunch of hard working guys, but a lot of fun at dinner later.

        Then again we didn’t go in with an attitude. Possibly that counted for something.

        1. liberty says:

          I think you meant keep up with tesla, not toyota. The tesla design structure is much more rapid.

          For the prius development, toyota created kind of a skunk works mentality, and were able to work much more rapidly than typical toyota. But that was within the company. I am sure many from the toyota side didn’t want to learn from the tesla culture. Its fine from that perspective that toyota took over something as separate as a parking prawl, but other things were not so easy to parcel out, and qulity of the final product suffered.

      3. Scramjett says:

        That mentality must trickle down into their dealership technicians because that sounds like my experience with the technicians. Talking to those guys is like talking to a brick wall. They are always quick to blame the owner first and are not exactly diplomatic about it. I hate going to their dealerships. Good customer service means taking the customer’s concerns seriously and doing your due diligence even if you suspect that it might be the customers fault. They do the opposite and are very accusatory. I’m never getting a Toyota again.

    2. DonC says:

      Entirely predictable. Completely different worlds. If you look at the repair frequency on truedelta.com, the Toyota Prius has 8 repairs per 100 vehicles. That’s about the best. The Model has has 98 repairs per 100 vehicles. That’s about the worst (and that’s for warm weather states).

      Plus Toyota can’t let screw ups with an EV hurt the brand. Not much of an issue for Tesla for several reasons. Can you imagine the press if the RAV-4 EV had the same number of fires as the Model S did?

      Ultimately though there aren’t many companies with the scale needed to take EVs mainstream. Toyota would of course be at the top of the list.

      1. James M says:

        Truedelta’s numbers are dually noted and does give me pause in anticipation of ordering the Tesla Model III, but I find this comparison significantly unfair. The Prius is 4th gen engineering with decades of manufacturing quality control behind it, whereas the Model S is low volume 1st gen manufacturing and a 1st gen production vehicle (the Roadster was hand built so doesn’t count). Also, Tesla performance and owner demographics means the Model S is driven much harder than the Prius. Lastly considering the price, Tesla owners have high expectations and are much more prone to complain than Prius owners. If Tesla reliability was such an issue as Truedelta portrays, there would be noticeable press, of which I’ve seen none…

    3. Stimpacker says:

      It is my opinion that Toyota has done nothing but a big disservice to the BEV world. The Rav4 EV is clearly a compliance car with no future. (pity those that owns one).

      The Prius is a great hybrid for promoting gas mileage. The Plug-In Prius is the real joke here. Next to no real usable electric range but frequently seen hogging charging stations.

      1. DaveMart says:

        Toyota is a global company and so do not solely design their cars according to what may be optimal in the USA.
        The average mileage in Europe is a lot lower than in the US and in Japan lower still.

        Even in the US there are a lot of new car buyers many of whom are in the older age bracket who do not do many miles a day.

        For all of those paying for a battery pack way bigger than they usually need makes little financial sense.

        The amount of petrol saved per kilowatt hour of capacity decreses as the capacity grows, as it is less often used.

        That Toyota know exactly what they are doing is shown by the fact that sales are great, however much EV enthusiasts don’t like it.

        As for ‘hogging the charging points’ other folk who have a negative attitude to the PIP were claiming that most do not even bother to plug their cars in, and simply bought them for lane access privileges.

        Both criticims can’t be right.

        1. EvDeath says:

          +1

          Carnegie Mellon has done numerous studies pointing out that the most effective EV designs are those who’s battery pack most closely match the duty cycle. Anything more is just hauling around extra mass and is counterproductive. Which is exactly why the Model-S is much less efficient than the Leaf.

          1. Mint says:

            You want a cookie for pointing out that a Model S is less efficient than a Leaf?

            Do I get one for pointing out that an E63 is less efficient than a Prius?

            Not hard to see why you can’t find a better use for your brain than posting hater comments on insideevs.

      2. Acevolt says:

        I own a 2013 Rav4EV with 18K flawless miles and really like the vehicle. I am pretty sure Tony Williams vehicle was a lemon and not typical of all Rav4 EV’s. Its really the only option if you want an EV that can routinely go 130 miles at 65mph and you don’t want to spend the money on a Model S.

        1. jzj says:

          @ Acevolt: Just to chime in: same car, same experience, same assessment.

          Except to note that I hate the Toyota HVAC interface, the charge timer does not work (I use a mechanical water heater timer on my EVSE), and I regret that Toyota did not offer us the battery pack shield that Tesla offered its customers (and the RAV4 pack is actually slightly lower than the pack on the Model S).

        2. quartzav says:

          My 2013 RAV4 had 14500 miles and had just gotten part of its drivetrain replaced after 2 weeks of shop time. I agree there is no offering currently to have EVs have 130 miles range @ 65mph under ideal conditions. That still doesn’t excuse them from making all those peculiar design decisions (charging options and component locations, brake regeneration programing that often favor mechanical brake even when regen use makes perfect sense, various user interface issues, charge timers that is broken since introduction…etc.) to make RAV4 EV owner’s life more difficult especially when traveling. IMHO there is something to be said when aftermarket programming patch is needed for something as fundamental as semi-accurate charge timing when there are at least 2 other major auto manufactures with successful implementation examples before Toyota.

  3. Taser54 says:

    LOL, Musk sure has perfected the practice of disrespecting people. Any bets on how long it takes for him to sour the Mercedes relationship?

    1. DaveMart says:

      I also understand that he invented Tesla pretty much in the same way as Al Gore invented the internet.

      Credit where credit is due…..or not.

      1. Marshal G says:

        He never actually said he invented it, but that he created it. By writing the bill that opened up the military network it was based on for use in universities and later commercialization.

          1. kdawg says:

            Here’s what Vint Cerf (co-father of the internet) had to say about Al Gore. Skip to 4:45 seconds if you want, but I think all of part 1 and part 2 are interesting.

            http://thecolbertreport.cc.com/videos/08a2dg/vint-cerf-pt–1

            1. DaveMart says:

              Video unavailable in the UK.
              What’s the bottom line?

              1. kdawg says:

                Here’s a Snopes on it. You can read Cerf’s thoughts here.
                http://www.snopes.com/quotes/internet.asp

                1. DaveMart says:

                  Thanks.
                  Interesting read.

                  I was not of course altogether serious in my comment either regarding Musk or Gore.

                  Gore has something of an air of rather pompous self satisfaction which is why the misquote still tends to stick.

                  AFAIK no one was ever entirely serious in thinking that he had claimed to have invented the internet, anymore than a charicaturist thinks that a particular face consists almost solely of nose and teeth.

                  The exaggeration just the same often serves to highlight a fundamental emotional truth about the character.

                  1. Trace says:

                    Oh, such BS! It was a right wing smear campaign during the 2000 election and pushed into the common language by a lazy press and aggressive Bush campaign.

                    Fundamental emotional truth about the character, my ass! All you did was buy into the right wing lies during a presidential campaign.

        1. DaveMart says:

          God works in mysterious ways, his wonders to perform…..

  4. MTN Ranger says:

    So all these reports of a Model R and III in 2017 and Model C in 2018. I want Tesla to succeed but this is a bit premature; I really doubt the Model C will be here before 2020.

  5. Dave K. says:

    And Elon didn’t invent Tesla, but without his drive and financial backing it certainly would not be the company it is today.

  6. “Any adjustment meant opening up and sharing either Tesla or Toyota’s “code” – of which neither was willing to do”

    Note that refusal to do true “open source”,even with an industry partner.

    1. Nix says:

      What is your point? That event was long before Tesla opened up their patents and went open.

  7. Josh says:

    I think some people are confusing this quote. “They’re mind-bogglingly stupid. You can’t even have a sensible debate.”

    Musk wasn’t talking about Toyota or any of its people, he was referring to fuel cells. We have had the FCV vs. BEV discussion plenty of times on here, so I am not trying to bring it up again. We already know which side Musk is on.

    1. DaveMart says:

      Presumably the Chaiman of Toyota’s board and the 500 engineers he has working on fuel cells might take it rather personally though.

      How could the relationship ever have gone wrong when such tact and respect is shown?

      1. SeattleTeslaGuy says:

        To be fair, the relationship had already gone south st that point.

        1. DaveMart says:

          My memory for dates is often faulty, but I thought that Musk loudly slagged off fuel cells even before the relationship with Toyota, and in no way moderated his language during the course of it.

          1. DaveMart says:

            Thinking back I remember being surprised and a little shocked that Musk came out with those comments in those terms when his partner was heavily into fuel cells.

            Surprisingly the relationship did not work.

            I bet the engineers at Daimler who may feel that they know a thing or two about cars since they have been building them for a hundred years are also overjoyed at his frankness since they intend to release their fuel cell car in 2017.

            Perhaps one can catch a glimpse of why Panasonic have apparently been less than over enthusiastic about the opportunity to invest in the Gigafactory.

            Its just as well that politeness and manners are not emphasised in Japanese culture, or they might be reluctant to hitch themselves up to him.

            1. liberty says:

              mercedes says the relatinoship is going well, wo there goes that conspiracy theory. Toyota bashing long range bevs started in 2002 if not earlier. Most BEV advocates have been fighting them since then. The direct question to musk about what toyota was doing came out in 2013, after toyota had jumped the shark here and poisened the relationship. Note I believe Akido Toyoda entered it in good faith, and indeed as skrewed up as it is, toyota has made a lot of money on the rav4 ev/tesla stock transaction, unlike on fuel cells where japanese stock analysts believe toyota will lose money for at least another 20 years.

              Jim Letz noted that toyota hoped to learn things from tesla about rapid development and design, they probably never even wanted a sucessful bev from most of their comments.

              The 2 engineering issues toyota raised were legitamate. They did not like the extra super structure, as this adds weight, unforctunately for time to market a clean sheet design would take to long so toyota made teslas work more expensie and added structure themselves. The other matter is a little more of a problem. Tesla had working software for the car. They didn’t want to screw with it for a car on such a tight time frame. Toyota wanted it to brake more like one of their hybrids. NOte my prius has had 2 recalls as far as software. Toyota refused to open up their code, and didn’t want to slip the schedule. That is a bad decission.

              1. DaveMart says:

                Conspiracy theory?

                I said that Musk has a big mouth, which the Merc engineers may not like, as German engineers do not usually take kindly to being called fools.

                What has that got to do with conspiracy theory?

                1. See Through says:

                  If you don’t praise and adulate Tesla and its CEO in every sentence, it is conspiracy and Tesla bashing.

                  Plain and simple.

                  1. EvDeath says:

                    +1

                    Which is why I get great pleasure from posting here.

                2. liberty says:

                  You could instead of speculating that mercedes engineers and management don’t like teslas engineers and management, becaue they are german, read and look at what they are saying. Mercedes is very happy with the relationship.

                  Why speculate? Read the full bloomberg piece about this, and the various articles about tesla/mercedes. This is about a culture clash, that was likely. The toyota side mainly was responsable, and this had nothing to do with toyota’s BEV bashing, or Musks statements about fool cells. Well maybe internally toyota was bashing bevs while working on the project, leading to a bad attitude. Tesla and Toyota did get the project done on time, much much faster than Toyota typically works.

      2. liberty says:

        The relationship was rocky before toyota started talking down BEVs.

  8. pjwood says:

    Early reports on the B-class include at least 3-4 episodes of MIL’s coming on, telling drivers to go directly to have the drive train serviced.
    http://www.mybclasselectricdrive.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=119
    Dunno who’s fault, but potential for similar outcomes with MB already look possible. It could be an easy one, too, but you can see it requiring post-sale cooperation between both co’s.

    Small tangent, but it would be good to know real world B-class numbers? Eh, guys? Maybe similar to what’s been done w/i3, where a rough idea on straight highway AER has been established, etc. I’ve now seen two, driven one, in MA. A delivery with ‘Range Plus’ is still unheard of, as far as I know. Not even in the Q3 cue, for the individual dealer I spoke with.

    I hate to think MB’s will be a Rav4 replay, but I noticed the website above has also ‘EV News’ links, which come back to IEV articles. Their selection appears strategic, in a somewhat disturbing way. They promote especially German vaporware, and bubbled up the year old “Volt price to drop $10,000” article, on that car’s page. Not too hard to tell somebody’s got an agenda.

    1. DaveMart says:

      I’m not quite sure what you are seeking to argue, but the comment that it is not too hard to tell that someone has an agenda glosses the obvious fact that everyone has an agenda, and Tesla certainly has.

      1. EvDeath says:

        DaveMart
        Your postings are like a breath of fresh air here -and- you know what you’re writing about. The fact is there were discussions about a second and possibly a third car. But TSLA engineering was crap, the battery pack prices eliminated any hope for a profit and then Musk opened his big mouth.

        At about the same time Toyota cracked the code on how to mass produce FC stacks and Li Air cells didn’t pan out. Now most of the Li Air work has stopped.

        It was a easy decision for Uchiyamada-san to make.

        1. Mint says:

          LOL what code did Toyota crack with FC’s?

          They’re gonna sell a FCEV $50k above the price of its gasoline equivalent, and they need California to pay $200M for H2 stations. Even then, drivers are going to pay more to refuel it than they do in a Prius in the foreseeable future.

          If Toyota really did figure out how to make fuel cells for less than $500/kW (which is still 5x too expensive for mass adoption), they would be using it to make tens of billions in the power generation market.

          It’s a PR project used for CARB credits. Nothing more.

          Toyota may well be right about plugin hybrids, but fuel cells will never be competitive for transportation.

  9. It’s funny that engineers working on the RAV4 EV project would have moved on to other projects over two years ago, soon after the EV went into production. Now we’re just hearing from Toyota “Marred By Clashes Between Engineers”.

    Question is why is Toyota making a big deal now as RAV4 EV end production at a number set by Toyota as the project was still in design? Wonder if there were also clashes between engineers on Toyota’s other EV, the Scion iQ EV that had production cut after just 100’s made? (only ~90 of iQ EVs were deployed to a car sharing service, never to be offered for sale)
    http://www.toyota.com/esq/vehicles/electric-vehicle/2013-scion-iq-ev.html

    1. DaveMart says:

      I believe that that was an internal Toyota project, not a co-operation with an outside company, and so the analogy seems flawed, although of course any company especially a large one has tensions between its different departments and variations of emphasis.

    2. EvDeath says:

      All auto engineers move on about a year before the project’s launched. At that time production engineering takes over with help from technical centers.

      The iQev was in house. Delightful little car, but too expensive and not enough range. Not much love from CARB.

      1. liberty says:

        You seem to misunderstand this project. It was only a 2 year project, not a typical 6 year toyota design effort, where the last year things are frozen. On this type of development you would expect software changes and possibly even electronics changes for the first year to improve upon the effort.

        Akido Toyoda did not put the engineers in a comfortable position. Looking out at the sales landscape, the EQ took too long to develop and had no help of selling even close to compliance levels. Tesla Engineering, although they made the toyota conterparts uncomfortable were able to bring this thing in on toyota’s schedule. It looks like there were feater creap, not in the prawl but in the regen braking and overall control software. It might have been better to delay the beast and get that nailed down. Tesla was not happy with the pricing or promotion, but they got paid with good pr back at the beginning of the project lowering their cost of capital.

  10. ffbj says:

    Interesting reads about the foibles of human beings. One of them being our ability to gloss over our failures and trumpet our triumphs.
    After all individuals make up corporations and so called corporate cultures have the features of those individuals collectively. Oh wait, according to the SC, corporations are individuals. Never mind.

  11. HVACman says:

    Getting back to the technical difference:

    Parking pawl. GM included it with the Volt. Apparently not a big deal. A positive parking lock is a critical safety feature. It must be inherently reliable and simple. The mechanical pawl concept has been an time-tested industry standard for many decades. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Toyota’s engineers were probably right to hold Tesla to this standard.

    Regen on taking the foot off the accelerator:

    Both Nissan and GM have that feature and adjust it with software when changing to “B” or “L” mode. Looks pretty standard for EV’s, but if Tesla’s “default” mode was like the Volt’s “L” mode, I can understand Toyota’s concerns. I like to drive in “L”, but passengers complain about motion sickness when I used it, it so I don’t use it much except when driving alone or on an extended downhill (like a low gear). Unless the software could be tweaked to allow a mild (as in Volt “D” drive regen) as well as aggressive, I agree with Toyota’s engineers here, too.

    This really looks lke Tesla is seeing things as a prototype company and Toyota as a mainstream company that has to dead-on reliable and acceptable to millions of mainstream customers worldwide.

    Toyota may have lessons to learn about 21st century adaptability and flexibility in the EV world, but Tesla, once their “newness” wears off, has tons to learn about playing the automotive game at the Big League level, building and supporting millions of vehicles every year, all over the world.

    Battery protection – We know all too well about Tesla’s issues with focusing on battery bank protection. Toyota probably really wanted to error on the side of caution here and rightly so. Score for Toyota.

    his is also something that

    1. Scramjett says:

      +1

      This is about the only reasoned critique on the engineering merits of both companies I’ve seen so far. Most of the rest of the comments here read like a clash of the Tesla/Toyota fan boys (and presumably some fan girls too).

  12. jmac says:

    ‘Toyota Chairman Uchiyamada, Father of the Prius, Foresees Long Run for Hybrids’

    Of course Uchiyamada thinks hybrids will go on forever.

    He is the hybrid Godfather.

    The fact is that in 2013 82.89 million vehicles were sold worldwide. There were also 1.279 million “standard” hybrids sold in 2013. This works out to a 1.54% market share for hybrids.

    This is far from a mind bending, earth shattering share by any standard. If you add up wordlwide auto sales all the way back to 1998, when the Prius was first introduced, and compare the total to cumulative hybrid sales, then the numbers become even more dismal with an average hybrid take rate of far, far less than 1 percent. (perhaps around .5 percent).

    Hybrids have sold modestly in the U.S. but have rarely exceed 3 percent take rate.

    I would call Toyota’s hybrids a modest success story at best.

    Of course Uchiyamada thinks hybrids will go on forever.

    Very foggy thinking at Toyota.

    1. EvDeath says:

      Fun with numbers again huh jmac? Maybe you might have overlooked the fact that hybrids aren’t sold everywhere in the world. For fun count US hybrid sales and compare to US EV sales, or hell do it on a world wide basis. EVs are a niche of a niche and will remain so for a long time to come.

      The real beauty of the Prius is that eventually. Over time it forced nearly every OEM, regardless of their market, to develop and produce hybrids.

      Even in racing, hybrids dominate LeMans and are required in F-1 and the really cool thing is these amazing energy harvesting designs are finding their way on to passenger cars. On the other hand a Model-S can’t make a full lap around the Nordschleife , but oddly enough a Prius can.

      It’s great you know so much more than Uchi perhaps you should offer to advise him.

    2. See Through says:

      Exactly! The same way Tesla supporters and Musk keep yelling that there will be electric planes and ships and submarines, and BEVs will take over the whole galaxy.

  13. Bill Howland says:

    Parking Pawl? The one in the Roadster works ok, as do the 2 facilities in the Volt. Not a big deal.

    You’d think with all those geniuses between the 2 companies they could EITHER:

    1). Make a J1772 connector that didn’t melt at 40 amps as the Rav4EV had many failures at this current level.

    OR

    2). Lower the current to 30-32 amps, since that’s the speed of all the public chargers anyways and its what most people have bought for their home evse’s.

  14. The parking pawl issue is a good illustration of old vs new thinking. If you’ve never done a transmission overhaul, you haven’t seen how the pawl fails when someone puts a car in park before it has stopped moving. Tesla’s solution completely eliminates this failure and gives you another way of safely braking the car to a full stop if the other systems have failed.

    Tragically, Toyota has had severe problems with this in the past, leading to loss of life.

    The pawl approach will keep your car from rolling down a hill after parking. It will not stop your car when rolling down the road (and putting your car in park when rolling will very likely damage the transmission)

    Tesla’s approach will accomplish both. You may never need it. But if you do, what will it be worth to you?

    1. EvDeath says:

      Actually there isn’t one instance of a Toyota parking pawl failure leading to death. Not a one. Why in the world would one purposefully put their car in park while driving down the road? There’s always neutral.

      1. Interesting you should comment on this, EvDeath. Maybe I should have been more clear. I was referring to

        “gives you another way of safely braking the car to a full stop if the other systems have failed.”

        The following story involving Toyota will explain why you might need another way to stop the car in an emergency:

        Toyota Motor Corp., which agreed to pay $1.2 billion to end a criminal probe that led to the recall of more than 10 million vehicles, received approval of the deal from a U.S. judge who said the case is an example of how “corporate fraud can kill.”

        The accord is the largest criminal penalty imposed on an automaker in the United States, Attorney General Eric Holder said. As part of the settlement, disclosed Wednesday by government officials, Toyota admitted wrongdoing and agreed to pay the penalty and submit to “rigorous” review by an independent monitor.

        http://www.autonews.com/article/20140320/OEM11/140329989/u.s.-judge-approves-toyotas-$1.2-billion-unintended-acceleration-deal

        1. EvDeath says:

          What’s interesting is Jay Cole will let this slander stand, but pulls down a factual response .

          Please read the NASA and NAS evaluations of Toyota.

          1. Aaron says:

            NASA did an evaluation of the Toyota unintended acceleration problems?

            1. EvDeath says:

              Yep and so did the National Academy of Science. And actually EV fans everywhere should know and understand the conclusions as they relate to electronic drivetrain control. It’s only a matter of time until Leaf or Tesla is similarly attacked.

  15. jmac says:

    ‘Toyota Chairman Uchiyamada, Father of the Prius, Foresees Long Run for Hybrids’

    Wait a minute, folks, I thought fuel cells were going to replace the hybrids and the EVs and just about everything else that runs on four wheels…..

    By concentrating on their hybrid business and dreamy, far off fuel cells, perhaps Toyota missed the whole electric car opportunity.

    Standard hybrids seem likely fade in the face of increasing competition from PHEV and BEV.

    In Norway (admittedly, an exceptional case) the Phev and Bev take rate combined is above 14 percent. Nowhere in the world do hybrids enjoy that kind of take rate.

    Europe has never been crazy about Japanese style hybrids, possibly because they are gasoline/electric.

    As a counter to hybrids, Europeans have their high mileage diesels. Just that simple. In the U.K., for example, 51 per cent of all cars sold were diesels in 2013.

    Norway has by and large avoided hybrids altogether, by simply ignoring them and embracing EVs.

    I bet Uchiyamada would love to have that 14 percent BEV market share in Norway.

    Standard hybrids can’t compete with 100 plus mile per gallon equivalent Bev and some EREV provide.

  16. jmac says:

    To: electric car guest drive.

    It’s hard to talk to the hard heads, and virtually impossible to talk to paid anti EV shills.

    Then there are also the pure internet sociopaths who are similar to the guys that get a kick dhutting down the internet with their latest virus..

    Thanks for posting the Toyota court case information.

    1. DaveMart says:

      Who exactly are you accusing and on the basis of what solid information that you have access to?

      I for one would naturally declare any financial interest that I might have, but I do not and would resent any libellous accusation that that is so.

      Perhaps you are in the habit of shooting your mouth off with no evidence whatsoever, but I am not in the habit of tolerating it.

      It appears that you simply cannot handle others holding different opinions, and think your own so incapable of being in error that no one can possibly rationally disagree.

      1. Jay Cole says:

        To be fair, jmac may not have been referring to anyone/comment in particular that still exists in this thread.

        There was about a dozen comments here that contained some fairly harsh/abusive language on both sides of the fence…which I just removed over the past couple minutes. In context (ie – 10 minutes ago), the comment might make more sense.

        1. EvDeath says:

          Really Jay Cole? Really? You pull down my response but let the slander from electric car guest drive stand? Really?

          Why don’t you take a long walk through the facts?

          1. Jay Cole says:

            I don’t see any slander at all from electriccarguestdrive here towards you (or even Toyota). I see an attempt to discuss the matter from his point of view. Which you are free to retort of course.

            However, some of your comments in retort (now removed) had the terms such as “lying EV foil heads” and such turns of phrases as “wiping their collective asses with the constitution”, “extortion by the US government” as well as some other descriptors for ECGD such as “someone so pro EV is also a liar…” etc.

            Most people (if not all) are looking for a mature, relaxed environment to read and discuss a topic…your contribution to this thread was way over the top. If you care to restate your points while giving some consideration to the poster your are speaking to (and the 2,167 other people who have viewed the story and could potentially read your words), you can be assured it will remain.

            In other words, just be civil/kind to each other and it’s all good. That’s it – easy peasy.

            1. EvDeath says:

              Jay
              Elecriccarguestdrive stated directly that parking pawl problems with Toyota had lead to a loss of life. That is totally untrue and I wonder what Toyota’s chief legal council would make of your virtual acceptance of this lie.

              Further, Toyota was technically absolved of any responsibility from unintended acceleration.

              That was a cheap shot and has no place in the discussion of the Toyota/Tesla divorce.

              1. Jay Cole says:

                Hey EvDeath,

                The site (and myself) am total okay with this argument and how you have presented it here this time. Totally fine. All good if this is what people are interested in discussing.

                We make no judgement as to what either party feels is correct, nor will we fact-hunt such a complicated issue to pass verdict on who is correct. Not our place at all, we try to stay as impartial as possible…and it simply is not possible.

                Again, as for outside opinion (Toyota’s council or others) — We don’t police the validity of fact between those engaged in a debate, or offer judgement…as we 81,048 comments deep over the past 2 years, we don’t have that kind of time or wish to accept that kind of responsibility (as it says in our terms of service to readers “…we make no representations or guarantees about the truth, accuracy, or quality of any content” – butt covered)

                We prefer to just work on writing new content as well as trying our best to keep the community a welcome place to discuss the topic(s) on hand.

              2. EvDeath, I did not intend to convey that meaning and I clarified my point as a result of your comment.

                I was pointing out that Toyota’s solution, a metal “finger” that fits into a “slot” on one of the transmission gear shafts, is not designed to stop the car in an emergency once it is moving at any speed past a few miles per hour. It just serves to keep the car from rolling once it has stopped. A simple peg in a hole.

                Tesla’s solution, (simplified description), is a separate electronically powered set of brake pads that will stop the car in an emergency. It was designed to do this, in addition to keeping the car from rolling once it has stopped.

                I didn’t say that Toyota’s pawl failed causing loss of life. I said that Tesla had a different way of thinking about things, and that their solution provides drivers with an option that may be of very high value when needed. It could even save your life. What’s that worth?

                This is the kind of thinking Tesla is getting famous for.

                The story I linked to simply relates recent facts about the case by one of the leading automotive news outlets.

                In my opinion, it’s worth reading mostly because it serves to illustrate how corporate culture influences engineering solutions, which was the point of the original post.

                1. EvDeath says:

                  A nice gesture but here are your exact words.

                  “The parking pawl issue is a good illustration of old vs new thinking. If you’ve never done a transmission overhaul, you haven’t seen how the pawl fails when someone puts a car in park before it has stopped moving. Tesla’s solution completely eliminates this failure and gives you another way of safely braking the car to a full stop if the other systems have failed.

                  Tragically, Toyota has had severe problems with this in the past, leading to loss of life.”

                  You can’t walk this one back, nor can you make the case that cost cutting by Tesla is somehow superior or safer. Or that Tesla is technically more advanced than is Toyota.

                  There were no fatalities tied to defective Toyota designs.

                  The article you posted was just a bit in Automotive News, hardly a scientific journal. And for what it’s worth the article just repeated the talking points from the DOJ.

                  Toyota was investigated by NHTSA, NASA and NAS. There was no finding of fault. None.

                  But yet the Obama Administration continued with the witch hunt.

                  It will be interesting how this same administration treats GM for a decade and a half of knowingly withholding information relating to a safety defect that did result in a loss of life.

                  1. Wow. Talk about spin. Toyota paid a $1.2 billion fine, the largest automotive safety-related fine in history, but it was all an Obama administration witch hunt?

                    The story very clearly makes the point that Toyota *admitted wrongdoing* as part of the criminal case settlement.

                    I’ve already clarified my point about the pawl, EvDeath. I think you might be getting hung up on my use of the word “this” which referred to the immediate previous line, emergency stops, not the failure of the pawl.

                    You mentioned that you didn’t understand why people would put a car in park while in motion, and that people can just shift into neutral in an emergency stop situation.

                    I believe most people will through intuition, reasoning or personal experience understand the fallacies of these positions, so I won’t comment further.

                2. HVACman says:

                  How is Tesla’s emergency brake a technology breakthrough? Every car made for the past umpteen years have had an emergency brake plus either a “P” pawl or be a manual transmission. Doesn’t the Volt also have an electronically-actuated set of brake pads that can function either as an emergency brake or engage when it is stopped? It is electrically actuated, but uses cables so it will still work if the hydraulics fail. I frequently engage it as “backup” when on steep slopes. Don’t most cars have this? Isn’t it probably a regulatory requirement? Will Tesla’s emergency brake work if the pads are worn?

                  Just askin’

                  1. Thanks for askin’ HVACman. I didn’t say it was a breakthrough, or that Tesla was the only company that used a fully redundant set of brake pads. (Some BMWs do for example)

                    Just that if you throw a normal car into Park at speed, it will break.

                    If you throw a Tesla Model S into Park at speed, it will brake.

                    In an emergency situation, or inadvertent operation, I would prefer the latter outcome.

        2. DaveMart says:

          I have no objection to robust comment, nor am I oversensitive.

          I draw the line however at direct allegations of improper financial interest, which is libellous.

          I would suggest that allegations of such interest, however disguised as general slut in a fit of caution, are well past the limit, as are apparently the comments which you refer to which I did not see before they were removed.

    2. EvDeath says:

      Jmac as in many of the areas you post your foil hat is a bit too tight.

      Toyota didn’t miss the EV opportunity, they simply looked at the data, and decided not to throw good money after bad on a technological dead end.

      As for the EU not accepting the Prius, yep true. But now with new EU standards addressing NOx and particulate, diesel is out of favor, especially if you care about going into city centers.

      Given Norway’s 100% tax on ICs I would characterize the 14% market share as an absolute failure.

      I’m thinking Uchiyamada could care less about 14% of next to nothing. The profit, if any, wouldn’t pay for the marketing.

      Actually standard hybrids have quite a few advantages over EVs and PHEVs. First the can operate just fine in cold weather. Tesla is a pig in cold weather and can’t survive if not plugged in. Hybrids can cross the continent on a single tank of gas, so if you really want to go somewhere leave the EV at home.

      You can criticize me all you want, I just attribute it to arrested development. Could care less. But I don’t get paid by anyone. I’m long retired.

      About the Toyota settlement please read the NASA and NAS findings as well. They’re not politicized.

      1. Aaron says:

        >I’m long retired.

        Is commenting on this board what you imagined you would be doing with your retirement? 😉

        1. EvDeath says:

          Yep exactly as long as they’re folks like you and jmac posting nonsense I’m perfectly happy to point out factual information.

      2. Mint says:

        What advantage does a regular hybrid have over a PHEV?

        With batteries now at ~$200/kWh, regular hybrids will be phased out. They’re only good for people without access to a plug for their car.

        For everyone that can charge daily, a $3000 premium to make a regular hybrid into a PHEV will pay for itself in only a few years.

        1. EvDeath says:

          Battery Packs are not at $200/kWh, individual mediocre cells may be that low.

          You need to run your numbers more carefully. In many cases, like freeway driving, the additional mass of the battery actually decreases fuel economy from a non-plug hybrid.

          Driven 10,000 miles a year a PI Prius will save about 40 gallons of gas over a standard Prius. Of course that depends greatly on the duty cycle.

          The pay back is quite long, certainly longer than the typical length of ownership for the first owner.

          This is why the DOE and EPA are starting to use 17 years in payback calculations.

  17. EvDeath says:

    Since Toyota’s unintended acceleration problems have now become a part of this discussion and because certain posters are mis characterizing the facts and because IEV apparently approves of these postings, here is a link to the NHTSA investigation and the NASA findings.

    http://www.nhtsa.gov/staticfiles/nvs/pdf/NASA-UA_report.pdf

    The settlement by Toyota was in no way tied to a finding of fault by NHTSA.

      1. EvDeath says:

        Omar
        Thanks for the post I hadn’t seen the article before.

        The findings were from the plaintiff’s attorney’s expert witness in a product liability suit. Although the information was compelling, NHTSA hasn’t changed their findings nor has NASA.

  18. CherylG says:

    I find it informative that Toyota rejected Tesla’s design for battery protection for the RAV4 EV. I guess we know from experience which group of engineers were ultimately proven the better engineers.

    “Toyota engineers also rejected Tesla’s proposed designs for an enclosure that would protect the bottom of the RAV4 EV’s battery pack, the people said.

    Toyota ended up taking over design responsibilities for the enclosures and strengthened the structural integrity, they said.

    Tesla ultimately added a titanium plate to its Model S sedan in March this year to better protect its battery as U.S. regulators reviewed crashes that led to the cars catching fire.”

    1. liberty says:

      “I find it informative that Toyota rejected Tesla’s design for battery protection for the RAV4 EV. I guess we know from experience which group of engineers were ultimately proven the better engineers.”

      I don’t quite get this response. Both Telsa and Toyota have great engineers. Are you saying that you think the RAV4 EV would have been safer than the tesla S in the mexican crash at over 100 mph into concrete, with no injuries and only a fire.

      http://www.wired.com/2014/03/tesla-feds-armor/

      I responded because your post makes people think the wrong way about statistics. Toyota sells many fewer BEVs, and none outside of california. Without looking at those specific cases its hard to know how toytoa would fare with a bev. We do know that a camry is much more likely to catch fire than a tesla S, even though it’s not likely it could get the speed required for the mexican crash.

      The conflict has a lot to do with Akido Toyoda trying to change culture within toyota. I’m sure he would like quicker turn around from concept to production, and more innovative thinking. The toyota engineers with the help with the tesla engineers were able to meet the time schedule, but I’m sure Mr. Toyoda, would prefer a bigger change in attitude of his engineers.

      Perfectly fine to have toyota do the body structure, that likely made the vehicle lighter but increased costs.

      On the pawl, I don’t think its a great thing even on a prius. The Tesla design appears to be safer, better performance wise (attempting to use the parking break will slow the car even if the first set of rear breaks don’t work correctly) but more expensive to implement. Fine again to use a pawl to save money, bu the safety reason is bs.

      The third part is the one that may have caused quality problems. Tesla has a regen braking system that is simpler to implement than toyota. Toytota by rejecting the tesla software/hardware combination should have shared its software, or written new software using its ideas to interface with tesla. Seriously some drivers will prefer the tesla version, some toyota, and a button choice would be ideal if there was cooperation on sharing code.