Will future motorists switch on to electric cars or will it be solar or hydrogen power?
The term, 'Electric car' usually refers to a vehicle that runs on an electric motor, taking power from a large battery that needs to be plugged into the mains for recharging.
However, solar power and hydrogen fuel cells can also be used to generate electricity to power a car while hybrid technology uses a combination of a battery powered electric motor and a separately fuelled engine.
The advantages of using electricity are considerable. Running costs are low, electric motors run quietly and they create zero direct exhaust emissions.
However, using currently available technology, the drawbacks are considerable. Electric vehicles are expensive, tend to be slow and won't go far without a recharge. And frequent recharging causes problems because plugging into non-renewable electricity sources like coal-fired power stations creates large amounts of greenhouse gases.
At Toyota we are exploring ways to make electric vehicle power cleaner and more practical. Valuable technologies and innovations developed for the RAV-EV[N2] electric car have been incorporated into our world leading Hybrid Synergy Drive® technology. The hybrid system is a seamless combination of a battery-powered electric motor and a state-of-the-art petrol combustion engine. The way it works is so efficient, the battery never ever needs a mains recharge so once it's on the road, a Toyota hybrid delivers impressive fuel economy with ultra-low emissions.
There are still many technical problems to overcome, but the possibility of using hydrogen fuel cells or solar energy (or even a combination of both) to keep the battery of an electric car charged, offers the tantalising prospect of 'zero emissions motoring'. And our engineers and designers are continuously looking for ways to solve the problems involved.