Toyota Motor Corp. and Ford Motor Co. are teaming up to develop technology for hybrid vehicles, part of growing moves in the automobile industry to prepare for tighter regulations on fuel efficiency.
Nissan Motor Co. and other carmakers will focus on electric vehicles to accommodate growing demand in this field.
"We will be able to cut down on carbon dioxide emissions (from vehicles) if we share the two companies' experiences," Takeshi Uchiyamada, executive vice president at Toyota, told an Aug. 22 news conference in Detroit.
Toyota and Ford formed a partnership to develop new hybrid systems, which combine an electric motor and a conventional engine, for small trucks and sport utility vehicles.
Despite the popularity of small trucks and SUVs in the United States, the world's second-largest automobile market, they have poor fuel efficiencies because of their weight.
The U.S. government announced July 29 that it would nearly double the required average fuel efficiency from the current level to about 23 kilometers per liter by 2025.
In light of the new regulation, Toyota and Ford struck the deal to reduce development costs through the joint project.
Nissan, which released its flagship Leaf electric car in Japan and the United States last December, has intensified its efforts to market electric vehicles. More than 11,000 Leafs have been sold worldwide, and Nissan will start production in the United States at the end of 2012. As part of its efforts to abide by the stricter U.S. regulations, Nissan intends to increase sales of electric vehicles, which emit no exhaust gas and are categorized as more fuel-efficient than hybrids.
General Motors Co. also released a new electric vehicle, the Chevrolet Volt, last December, which incorporates an auxiliary engine. Mitsubishi Motors Corp. will launch its mainstay i-MiEV electric vehicle in the United States in November.
Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism plans to raise the required average fuel efficiency of passenger cars by 20 percent from the current level to 20.3 km per liter in 2020.
Although Toyota and Honda Motor Co. wield a competitive edge in hybrids, Nissan and Mitsubishi are ahead in electric vehicles.
However, all automakers continue to develop both types of vehicles to survive amid the trend of tighter fuel-efficiency regulations. Hybrid vehicles will be necessary in the near future partly because electric-vehicle use remains limited largely due to the lack of electricity-charging facilities.
Nissan and Mitsubishi are scheduled to release new hybrids next year and in subsequent years. Mazda Motor Corp. and Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., neither of which sells hybrids, will receive hybrid technology from Toyota.
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