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Japan: We're Ready for 2016 CAFE Standard

TOKYO -- The 2009 Tokyo Motor Show may have been light on world debuts, but its ecological theme showed that Japanese automakers are taking the global stiffening of fuel economy and emissions regulations seriously.

Hybrid and electric vehicles in various stages of production readiness were scattered across the show floor. Several vehicles were ready for prime time, including near-production versions of the Honda CR-Z hybrid sport coupe and the plug-in version of the Toyota Prius.

The message: Japan Inc. is ready to meet the U.S. government's 35.5 mpg corporate average fuel economy mandate for the 2016 model year. Executives of several Japanese automakers say they can hit the U.S. standard without additional technology.

For example, Mazda Motor Corp. has said it will achieve a 30 percent fuel economy reduction but is nonetheless pursuing a $1.1 billion public offering to develop hybrid powertrains to exceed the standard.

Toyota Motor Corp. predicts that 30 percent of its global sales in 2020 will be hybrid vehicles, not including plug-in hybrids. Toyota will expand hybrids into new segments, says Takeshi Uchiyamada, executive vice president in charge of product development. But hybrid vehicles may be just "one system" that Toyota uses to meet the U.S. standard, he says.

"Trendwise, the hybrid vehicle share is going to rise more and more," Uchiyamada says. He says Toyota is already studying a next-generation "all-solid" battery beyond lithium ion.

Not everyone sees increased use of hybrid technology as a silver bullet.

Takanobu Ito, CEO of Honda Motor Co., says: "With our current engine and transmission technology, there are still improvements to be had with weight reduction and aerodynamic improvement. We can modify our existing technology to meet the standards."

While Honda is working on a hybrid two-motor system for larger vehicles such as the Odyssey minivan and Pilot SUV, Ito says volumes would not be sufficient to make an impact on Honda's CAFE scores.

Full article at Automotive News
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