Toyota has just begun production of the Mirai hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle and the first few models should start rolling around public roadways in the next couple weeks. The car is only being sold in limited locations initially, mainly because there isn’t a hydrogen refueling infrastructure to support the vehicles yet, and it will only be available in small numbers for the first couple years, but Toyota is making it happen and actually producing the highly anticipated vehicles for mass consumption.
Vehicles are Becoming Available Daily
Now that production of the Mirai has begun approximately three new vehicles will roll off the assembly line on a daily basis at the plant. This is just the starting point for vehicle production and it’s set to increase over time. There is a greater demand for the Mirai than expected, especially from Japan, and that’s making it crucial for the plant to begin producing higher volumes of the car over time.
Seeing How its Made
Perhaps in hopes of familiarizing people with hydrogen cars a bit more, Toyota wants the world to know what goes into its newest cars and has put together a series of short videos detailing the construction process. These little “How its Made” videos give you a firsthand look into the Mirai and the hard work involved with building one.
If you would like to see how the Mirai is made you can see the various stages in the videos below.
A Higher Profile Plant
It’s no surprise that the Mirai construction is going to take place at the Motomachi plant in Toyota City Japan. This is where many of the high-profile Toyota and Lexus vehicles are created, and where a vehicle as important as the Mirai should be manufactured. The plant was home to the Lexus LFA supercar, as well as many other high-profile vehicles such as the Supra, the Soarer and the Corona. The plant is known for its highly skilled workforce, and should help improve the quality of the finished product.
About the Mirai
If you haven’t heard much about the Toyota Mirai yet, its the first mass-produced hydrogen fuel cell vehicle and is going to be out on the roads shortly. The vehicle is capable of getting 300 miles on each fill up and generates a total of 153 horsepower. The car costs about $45,000 and only limited numbers will be available during the first few years of production. Toyota hopes that it will pull consumers away from current gasoline powered vehicles and that it becomes the new mainstream form of mobility, but there are still hydrogen production and infrastructure details to work out before the technology becomes mainstream.
Critics often argue and try to take away from the environmentally friendliness of hybrid vehicles by citing the energy used and pollution produced when creating the batteries that are used in these vehicles. After all, if you are generating more waste when creating the vehicle, what good is all the waste that it saves during its operation. Even though that’s true to an extent, the European branch of Toyota is working very hard to ensure that their hybrid vehicles are not leading to more waste in the environment, and that they are actually taking away from the nasty chemicals being sent up into the atmosphere, and to do this they have a very aggressive recycling initiative going on.
Toyota is working hard to gather up any and every old hybrid battery that they product. Both European and Lexus dealerships are taking all the old batteries from vehicles that they are responsible for, and they are sending them to be recycled at one of the many facilities in the area. This helps to keep the same materials cycling into new products, and helps to reduce the energy waste and resource waste involved with hybrid vehicle production.
How Toyota is Gathering up Old Batteries
In order to make sure they are getting back as many old batteries as they can from their vehicles, Toyota is offering to give Toyota and Lexus dealers in Europe a brand new hybrid battery in exchange for an old one. Because of this one simple incentive, Toyota is able to obtain 91 percent of all the batteries that they create and recycle them into new products.
Gathering Back Every Old Battery
In order to be even more environmentally friendly Toyota is working hard to increase their retention rate from the low 90′s to 100 percent. That means that they want to get back every single hybrid battery that is produced in Europe, so that they can be recycled and reused in any way possible. In order to up the percentages of battery reclamation Toyota is extending their battery replacement deal until March 31 2018. This will give more people a chance to take advantage of it and to keep clean cars out on the road.
Recycling the Batteries
There are a few different companies in the EU that handle recycling these old batteries after their lifespan is done and over with. Société Nouvelle d’Affinage des Métaux in France also known as SNAM, is responsible for recycling all the nickel-metal hydride or NiMh batteries used in the Prius, Auris Hybrid, in the Yaris and all the Lexus hybrids. Belgium-based Umicore NV is responsible for taking care of all the lithium-ion batteries that are used in the Prius Plug-in and Prius+ models.
Not only are many of these batteries being recycled, but the European branch of Toyota is also looking into different ways that the batteries could be reused before recycling. They make good stationary energy sources for things like resource backup and other energy projects where affordable storage solutions are needed. In a world where so many different hybrid batteries are being produced, it’s reassuring that many of those batteries are being recycled or reused in some way to help keep environmental impacts down as low as possible.
Toyota has long-since been the big player in the mid-sized truck segment. Their Tacoma has been the highest seller of all the mid-sized trucks in recent years. With 155,000 models sold in 2014 they managed to more than double any other truck in the segment, which is impressive, but also shows the level of commitment that Toyota buyers have. Even though the Toyota Tacoma has become a popular choice for truck buyers there is a new competitor on the scene that Toyota’s now locked in battle with, and that means they are producing a new and highly improved version of the Tacoma to help them keep the lead in the market. The 2016 Toyota Tacoma is upgraded in several different ways to help it stay ahead of the newly-launched Chevy Colorado.
Major Performance Enhancements
The Tacoma is notorious for relying on the same old technology that it always has, and many consumers don’t have a problem with that because it’s so darn reliable and enjoyable to drive around in. That being said, the older models are starting to look a bit dated, and that’s precisely why Toyota is making so many changes in their vehicle to help it remain competitive. Toyota updated the engine, the transmission, the suspension as well as looks both inside and out to create a superior product to the older model.
The new V6 engine runs on the more efficient Atkins cycle that so many of Toyota’s products are using at least part of the time. This should enhance fuel efficiency figures for the vehicle. The new six-speed automatic transmission should also provide smoother performance and enhanced efficiency figures as well. The slightly more rugged suspension and lightweight body design gives the Toyota less mass than the Colorado and helps it stand up to harsh off-road conditions that trucks are occasionally subjected to.
New and Improved Looks
The 2016 Tacoma has a sportier look than before. This is thanks to the larger wheel flares as well as a bigger hood than before. Toyota also decided to square the front-end of the vehicle more than before, giving it a more muscular stance. Finally they offer a new grille-design that offers a more triangular look than before.
When you climb inside the Tacoma it’s clear that work was done to make it look a bit more luxurious and put together than past models are. The Tacoma features more soft-touch materials, a more cleaned up set of buttons and media center, and it’s just more comfortable to sit in. Overall the Tacoma is a lot more attractive to look at, and this is one of the main improvements that is going to help the Tacoma hold onto that market share that it has been enjoying for so long now.
Just as Reliable
One of the main benefits of owning a Toyota has always been the reliability of the vehicles. Toyota is known for having vehicles that last and last, more-so than most other automakers. This is why Toyota’s have such a high resale value, and why so many of their customers are repeat buyers who are looking for that same level of reliability that they got the first time around. If you are looking for a solid work truck that you can count on the Tacoma will deliver. It’s built on the same rock-solid foundation as always, it’s just a littler prettier to look at and comes with some nice new features that help it keep up with the times.
The 2016 Toyota Tacoma provides a highly desirable option for interested mid-sized truck buyers. It offers the same features that inspire so many consumers to decide on Toyota, and it improves upon many of its features that were already seen as strengths before. It’s better looking, more efficient, and more rugged than it was before.
The 2015 Toyota Highlander hybrid is a pretty desirable vehicle if you have a lot of people you want to carry around without burning through gasoline at a rapid pace. The massive SUV holds between seven and eight people without a problem and everyone can sit comfortably while travelling down the road. While gasoline is pretty cheap at the moment, that isn’t likely to continue for too long, and when gas prices go back up the EPA rated fuel economy of 28 MPG combined will be pretty nice to have.
One of the best things about the Highlander is the interior. It’s nice to lookl at, and provides plenty of comfort and utility features to make it good for most uses. The two-tone interior has a classy look, and while it is packed with nice features, such as a digital infotainment system, and a bunch of hybrid tech, the interior is pretty clean looking and simple. All the buttons in the vehicle are labeled in large lettering, and most of the knobs are large and easy to hold and use.
The front seats are both heated and ventilated while being very supportive and comfortable. The leather-wrapped steering wheel is also heated, making it very enjoyable to use on those chilly winter mornings in northern climates. The Highlander also provides plenty of storage space for when you need to carry home a load of grocierys, or maybe some new appliances or furniture. 13.8 cubic feet of space is aviable with all three rows of seats in place, but when the third goes down into the floor you have 42.3 cubic feet and with the second folded down as well you get a whopping 83.2 cubic feet. There’s also a small under-floor storage compartment for added storage that’s big enough to hold a few bags of grocieries without a problem.
Power and Performance
The Highlander isn’t exactly a powerhouse, but it comes with more than enough to keep it from feeling sluggish. When you add together the 3.5 liter V6 and the two supplementary electric motors you get a total power rating of 280 HP. This is 10 more horses than the standard Highlander, and the vehicle speeds up and slows down with ease.
The Highlander Hybrid is a pretty heavy vehicle and it feels very grounded and provides a great level of traction in all driving conditions. Since electric motors are located both at the front and back of the vehicle it has all-wheel drive and has a very capable feeling when driving it. The Highlander isn’t a fun ride, but it’s not boring either. It’s a good family vehicle, and feels rock solid no matter where you take it.
The only downside to the 2015 Highlander Hybrid is the price tag that it comes along with. It will set you back $48,385, and that’s if you decide that you don’t want any of the available extras. This isn’t a bad price for a vehicle that comes with so many features, and it comes with the upgraded Highlander Limited Trim package, but with gas as cheap as it is today, some families won’t feel like the price is justified.
With each passing year Americans increase their demand for fresh and new crossovers to drive around town. What used to be a niche vehicle has come into the mainstream and CUVs are taking over as the most popular form of transportation in the United States. In order to keep up with that demand Toyota has been ramping up CUV production and is even looking at some new models to help them keep up with competitors.
Sales figures for CUVs and SUVs were up by 16 percent in 2015 showing just how interested Americans are in these vehicles. With such large sale spikes in these sectors it’s important that Toyota works hard to keep up with demand if they want to remain competitive. They have already had to increase production for their Rav4 and Lexus RX crossovers, and it’s likely that the surge will continue throughout 2015 as well.
The SUB Rav-4 CUV
The Rav-4 is Toyota’s smallest CUV currently but the automaker is considering developing an even more compact vehicle to help them keep up with some of their competitors. They believe that the next big surge of vehicle demand will be centered on these small crossovers and it’s highly likely that the Toyota lineup will expand with a compact crossover in the near future.
The Appeal of the Crossover
It’s hard to say exactly what is so appealing about a crossover compared ot the standard SUV or a truck. Most American’s who purchase SUVs and trucks never take them off paved roads, or do so only a small portion of the time, and maybe crossovers are so popular because they provide the benefits of both SUVs and trucks without many of the downsides that come with such large vehicles. Crossovers are spacious inside and they are more fuel efficient than SUVs or pickup trucks are. They aren’t as robust and can’t withstand harsh driving conditions or handle towing as much, but that isn’t what they are meant for. Crossovers are comfortable to drive and they provide a rugged looking exterior that makes them a bit more exciting than a minivan.
If you’re a fan of crossover vehicles it’s likely that you will see more offerings from many of the top automakers in the coming years, Toyota included.
Toyota has invested a great deal of time and energy into researching and developing all the technology leading up to their fuel cell vehicles. Now they are showing how much they are truly dedicated to advanced society to hydrogen-powered vehicles by making those 5,680 patents available free of charge, to any companies producing hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. These patents are only available until 2020, when Toyota will begin capitalizing on them once again, but by then the industry should have advanced dramatically.
Toyota Can’t Do it Alone
Akio Toyoda, Toyota President is the first to admit that the auto giant can’t do it alone. They don’t have enough power and research specialists to be a strong enough driving force to get everyone into hydrogen-powered vehicles, and that’s why they are hoping to enlist the help of some of the other leading automakers as well.
Letting Go of Profits
By giving out all of these valuable patents Toyota is essentially saying goodbye to massive profit potentials over the short term. It’s hard to decide if what they are doing is smart or ludicrous. While they are throwing away profit potential, they are also securing a strong future for hydrogen tech, which they can still profit off of. By making this move, Toyota is following in the footsteps of rivals Tesla, the electric car company that recently made all of their electric patents available to the public.
Bringing Higher Quality Products to the Public
By giving out all their patents Toyota is guaranteeing to offer the top quality products to the public, because if they don’t one of their competitors will. This shows that Toyota is confident in their engineering capabilities, and that they believe they can still beat out their competitors even when they don’t have their secret tech locked away from prying eyes.
While some people may see this move as Toyota being foolish, they are doing society a favor by giving hydrogen technology a true chance to grow and prosper. Giving away their patents may be just the driving force needed to get more automakers involved in the technology, and to speed up the advancements associated with it. All the research that will benefit from these new ideas could result in more major advancements that dramatically improve the technology as time goes on. That’s Toyota’s hope, and we’ll have to wait and see if it pays off.
While most Toyota’s are known for being pretty bland and blending into the crowd seamlessly, that certainly isn’t the case with the 2015 Toyota 4Runner TRD. This massive beauty is an effective driver that really stands out in both performance and looks. It builds on what worked in 2014 while offering some nice new features that buyers will appreciate.
The 2015 Toyota 4Runner TRD isn’t a traditional beauty, in fact it’s a bit bold and ugly, but it’s got such an air of aggression that it draws looks wherever it goes. The 4Runner has a massive gaping grille with angry slanted headlights accented by deep crescent air intakes below. The serious look is further built upon thanks to the black wheels topped with knobby high-traction tires. This SUV looks like it’s ready to climb mountains or at the very least pull a few people out of snowy ditches during those chilly winter months.
Exciting New Changes
One of the most exciting things about the 2015 version of this vehicle is all the changes that its received. It now comes with a revise suspension that makes the vehicle feel more capable and connected when driving on pavement. The SUV has TRD performance shocks, specially tuned springs and rear remote reservoirs for improved performance. It also comes with those massive 31.5 inch off-road tires that give it an aggressive look and 17-inch aluminum wheels that shave off some weight.
Capable Performance and Handling
The 2015 4Runner TRD is built on the same reliable powertrain that it used in the 2014 version. IT comes with a very capable 4 liter V-6 engine that produces a total of 270 HP. The motor is tied to a five-speed automatic transmission that shifts smoothly even if it doesn’t provide the best fuel efficiency figures.
The vehicle comes with an electronic locking rear differential and Crawl Control tech for effective handling in very steep and uncomfortable positions. The vehicle comes with a multi-select traction control system, allowing you to pick different suspension and steering dynamics depending on the terrain that you are traveling over.
The Massive Interior
The inside of the 4Runner is massive and quite comfortable. Since it only holds two rows of seats there is plenty of storage space for everyone within. It’s capable of holding up to 46.3 cubic feet of stuff, and that makes it a great resource for carting around camping gear or anything else that you want to haul around.
All the changes help to make the 4Runner into a more desirable vehicle than before. It’s one of the few Toyota models that inspires passion on consumers and that makes it well worth the $40,000+ price tag that’s tacked onto it. There are plenty of reasons to own this SUV but you won’t realize how much you want it into you’ve given it a test drive.
Recently the 2015 Toyota Highlander was chosen as the Best Buy SUV by Kelly Blue Book in the mid-sized SUV category, similar to the 2014 award the Highlander obtained from Consumer Reports. It managed to achieve this title by edging several capable SUVs in the class thanks to a good mix of utility, style, and performance. This SUV may not be the flashiest in the segment, but according to Kelly Blue Book it makes a lot of sense to at least consider as your next SUV purchase.
Why Did it Get the Rating?
Kelly Blue Book listed a variety of different reasons that they liked the 2015 Highlander and for why they gave it the top rating. They stated that the SUV has just the right amount of style, comfort amenities and performance to give buyers everything that they want from the vehicle. They cited some of the nice comfort features such as the Blue-ray entertainment package, and they focused on the smooth performance of the powerful little V6.
Kelly Blue Book also took a moment to address the overall value of the vehicle. The cited Toyota’s reputation for high resale values and the ability for owners to get a large portion of their original investment back out of the vehicle as one good reason to consider the vehicle. They also touched on the SUV’s expected low cost of ownership and maintenance due to good fuel efficiency figures as well as a high level of reliability. Overall even when just considering the track record of Toyota and the expected reliability Kelly Blue Book points out that the Highlander is a good option.
A Safe Ride Too
Not only did is the Highlander recognized as an excellent value as a vehicle, but it’s known for its high level of safety as well. The 2015 Highlander received a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the IIHS just a few days before it received the rating from Kelly Blue Book as well. That means you can get a great value with this mid-sized SUV while enjoying a nice safe drive as well. This is a pretty impressive combination that mid-sized SUV buyers should pay attention to in the future.
The Highlander starts at around $30,000, and several different upgrade packages are available to boost that figure up to a higher range. It’s already available for purchase from many dealerships around the country and major institutions such as KBB and the IIHS are already starting to take notice of the vehicle and what it has to offer to customers.
Even though Toyota seems to be focusing on Hydrogen Fuel Cell vehicles as the transportation of the future, they are still working hard to develop their electrical technology, and they have quite a few developments up their sleeve. The automaker has two different powerful battery technologies in development that could both dramatically improve the performance capabilities of electric-driven vehicles, one of which is in the prototype stage already, solid-state batteries.
Solid State Batteries
Toyota is developing a technology known as solid state batteries and they have already produced a coin-sized prototype that manages an impressive level of energy density compared to current lithium-ion batteries. The battery manages an energy density of around 400 Watt-hours per liter, or 400 Wh/L. This is currently close to two times as dense as lithium batteries being used today, which could do great things for electronics in general outside of the automotive industry. On top of offering more energy storage capabilities, this battery can also put out a power stream about five times as powerful as lithium-ion batteries are capable of doing. That means more powerful motors can be driven using fewer batteries. This technology is expected to be released in 2020 and should be perfected enough to hit between 600 and 700 Wh/L by 2025.
What Makes them Different
Solid state batteries are known as such because they rely on a solid electrolyte in place of the liquid electrolyte that’s used in lithium ion batteries. Instead of nickel-metal hydride or a lithium ion, solid ceramic or a polymer is used instead. This packs more energy into a smaller area allowing for a greater storage capacity.
What the Batteries Can Do
With solid state batteries being at the current energy density of the prototype in development a family sedan would be able to drive for around 300 miles on a single charge. While this is quite a ways off from the 600 miles that many automakers are shooting for, this is still a huge step forward for the industry overall and something to get excited about.
Lithium Air Batteries
Toyota is also developing lithium air batteries, but they expect these to take about five to ten years longer to develop than solid state batteries. These batteries rely on a small cathode that interacts with oxygen and requires less materials overall. This makes it possible to squeeze even more energy into a tiny area and could allow up to 1,000 Wh/L of storage by 2030.
These two advances represent major breakthroughs for the electronics industry and will make it possible to produce long-distance electric vehicles that are much more efficient than the ones we see today. It’s hard to say if they are simply hedging their bet on Hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles with this technology or if they plan to incorporate it into future vehicles to create something even more sophisticated for drivers to rely on.
Not only are Toyota vehicles known for being highly reliable, but they are also very safe and recent tests performed by the International Institute for Highway Safety(IIHS) prove it. According to the 2014 study Toyota managed to take 12 Top Safety Picks, 8 of which were Top Safety Pick+ awards. That’s more safety awards than any of the other automakers in the world, and that’s something to be proud of.
What the Ratings Mean
The IIHS give out two different safety awards, Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick plus. The former is for above average vehicles that meet a long list of safety requirements, and the latter is for exceptional vehicles that meet the same requirements while having additional preventative equipment for even safer driving conditions. There were 71 total awards given out by the institute and Toyota received 12 of them between their standard and luxury brands.
The Top Safety Pick+ Vehicles
Out of all the vehicles that were given a good rating, the most impressive are the ones among the Top Safety Pick+ ranks. The Prius, Prius V, the Lexus RC, the Camry, the Highlander, the Sienna, the Lexus CT and the Lexus NX all received this award. Each of these vehicles comes with an impressive level of safety equipment making them good family cars and cars for young drivers you want to keep safe.
Great Family Vehicle
If you’re looking for a solid family vehicle to ride around in with larger families the Toyota Sienna is an excellent option. Out of all the minivans sold this year the Sienna was the only one to receive the Top Safety Pick+ distinction. That’s huge for van owners and families who want to provide the safest environment for their children.
Overall the number of vehicles that are now getting the safety rewards went up dramatically this year, but that’s in large part because the automakers are getting used to the more stringent testing requirements that were implemented the previous year. In 2013 just 39 winners made the list, but that amount has gone up to 71 vehicles since then. That’s an increase of almost double.
Toyota has established itself as one of the top automakers in the industry as far as safety and reliability is concerned, but they aren’t the only automaker to get a high number of safety awards. Honda managed to get the award for ten of their vehicles, giving them the second highest of any automaker.
If you’re looking for a vehicle that you can trust while driving around, check out any of the Top Safety Pick+ vehicles from Toyota. Each meets a very stringent set of requirements and has been proven to handle crash situations very well.