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Toyota Bringing an Ethanol Hybrid Car to Market

  • Wednesday, 14 November 2018 12:26


November 14, 2018

By Evan Williams

Toyota is sending an ethanol hybrid to market and the executive responsible for it says that the project is exceeding all expectations.

Brazil is the biggest producer of ethanol in the world. The country has a largely sustainable biofuel market thanks to sourcing from sugar cane instead of grain. Every car in the country built after 1976 can run on at least some mix of gas and biofuel. Most are flex-fuel cars that can work on anything from E20 to pure ethanol. So it makes sense to build a flex-fuel hybrid for the market.

“The soonest I can put it in production, I’m going to do it,” Toyota’s Latin America CEO Steve St. Angelo told Automotive News at an auto show in Brazil last week.

“We need to be competitive,” St. Angelo said. “Our home countries are not going to give the money just because we are nice guys in Brazil. You have to have a good business case.”

Toyota’s current hybrids, like the Prius, can run on the usual E10 mixture found in North America but aren’t capable of handling a higher mix of the alternative fuel. In addition to different engine fueling and ignition calibration issues, more ethanol can cause problems with seals and rubber and plastic fuel system components. St. Angelo has his team working on a flex-fuel version that will fix that issue. Combining an electric motor and an engine that can run on ethanol. That has the potential to further reduce tailpipe emissions.

The automaker revealed the hybrid flex-fuel prototype in Brazil last March. The prototype was a Prius with a combustion engine and system modified for the biofuel. Toyota says that the system significantly lowers CO2 emissions from the vehicle. The sugarcane-based ethanol made in Brazil helps further improve the emissions reduction.

So how soon is soonest? It shouldn’t take more than three years to bring the car to market, St. Angelo said. He added that the company isn’t spending big money on a new model, but is making tweaks and calibration changes. Presumedly to an existing model.

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