Toyota will display a new variation on the Camry Hybrid theme at the Los Angeles International Auto Show in November. An exploratory one-off at the moment, this concept Camry will be fitted with the existing version of the automaker's Hybrid Synergy Drive system but have its four-cylinder engine powered by compressed natural gas instead of gasoline.
Toyota's first foray into the CNG world, a fleet-only four-cylinder Camry back in 1999, was not a huge success back in the days of relatively cheap gasoline. However, the organization feels that the rather dramatic changes in the current market have seriously rebalanced the desirability equation -- something that the increasing demand for Honda's CNG-fired Civic GX seems to bear out, albeit still on a fairly limited scale. Even so, Toyota clearly recognizes the wisdom of keeping its hand in all areas of the alternative-fuel arena.
"With the combination of plentiful long-term supplies in North America, improved and more efficient recovery methods, favorable pricing and clean-burn/low emissions characteristics, CNG has become a prime energy-source for the future," said Irv Miller, group vice president, TMS Corporate Communications. "With this concept, we are confirming our interest in pursuing CNG within our broad and comprehensive R&D scope. Natural gas and an expanded retail-friendly CNG infrastructure could be seen as a model for future hydrogen infrastructure."
Toyota also announced that it was reducing the price of replacement Nickel-Metal Hydride(Ni-MH) battery packs for both first- and second-generation Prius models by more than 10 percent. Previously $2,985 each, the new Ni-MH battery packs ring in at $2,299 for 2000-2003 Prius models and $2,588 for the current-generation variants. The automaker is also looking into the possibility of further cutting replacement costs by establishing a facility in the U.S. that would be specifically dedicated to remanufacturing these pricey components.