July 3, 2007

Toyota expresses concern over plug-in hybrid conversions

Washington, D.C. – Toyota has outlined its concerns with the conversion of existing hybrids, such as the Prius, to plug-in electric hybrid vehicles (PHEV), according to a report by the Green Car Congress. The automaker sent a memo to the U.S. Senate Finance Committee in the context of proposed incentives to spur PHEV adoption.

According to Charles Ing, Director, Government Affairs, Toyota Motor North America, Toyota’s view is that PHEV converters should comply with existing standards governing second-stage manufacturers; that NHTSA and EPA should be required to establish new regulations for the certification of conversions of used vehicles, thereby putting product liability and warranty risk to the vehicle converter; and that the government should assure that there will be no degradation in emissions and vehicle safety before it provides taxpayer incentives for conversion.

Toyota cited a test of a converted Prius PHEV that exhibited higher levels of emissions than a stock Prius. Also among the company’s concerns were increased risk of fire from lithium-ion batteries; increased risk of injury in a crash from aftermarket batteries; adverse effect on the rear suspension from the added weight; removal of the spare tire; and compromised powertrain and voiding of warranty. Toyota stated that converters “hack into and modify” the software in the engine control module, which may damage the battery pack and engine, and also void the warranty.

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