Toyota has announced that a new eQ minicar will be added to its EV lineup by the end of the year. However, the firm's vice chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada also indicated to reporters in Tokyo that the world market for pure electric models has not materialized at the pace the automaker had initially envisioned. According to Uchiyamada, who also heads Toyota's R&D efforts and was a prime mover behind the Prius program, accelerated development of zero-emissions vehicle technologies continues but Toyota's main product thrust for the near future lies in the field of advanced hybrids. This latest shift in emphasis will not have any effect on the planned U.S. launch later this year of the Toyota RAV4 EV that's being produced in conjunction with Tesla Motors.

While total volume for the new Toyota eQ - which is based on the existing iQ model - will be roughly 100 units combined for the U.S. and Japan, the automaker plans to introduce 21 gas-electric hybrid vehicles by 2015, two-thirds of which will be all-new. It anticipates global demand for these vehicles -- including its latest strain of plug-in hybrids -- to exceed 1 million units this year and in each subsequent year until at least mid-decade. To help bolster its reenergized hybrid effort, Toyota plans to introduce an enhanced version of its 2.4 AR 4-cylinder gasoline engine. Fitted with Atkinson Cycle technology as well as the automakers D-4S dual-injection system, it reportedly will deliver the world's highest maximum thermal efficiency when it goes into a production model next year. In 2014, Toyota also will introduce a new 2.0-liter turbocharged version of the AR engine designed to offer even better fuel economy and more power.

Destined to serve primarily in government and select local fleets when it goes on sale in December, the new Toyota eQ will feature several innovative touches. In addition to a high-output motor that makes 63 horsepower and 120 lb-ft of torque, the eQ features a very compact, super-efficient 12kWh lithium-ion battery pack that offers the world's best power consumption rate and gives the car a 62-mile per-charge cruising range along with a top speed of almost 78 mph. While replenishment takes eight hours on a conventional 110-120V outlet, it drops to just three on a 240V and an 80-percent re-up requires just 15 minutes on a DC quick charger.

Fuel cells also figure in Toyota's longer-term future, and the unit that will appear in a new sedan-styled FCV due to launch in 2015 boasts the world's highest power density, producing double the output of the stack used in Toyota's current "FCHV-adv" prototype vehicle while being just half its size and weight.

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