Japanese Hybrids on the March

Inifiti Hybrid Prototype

Three of Japan’s largest car manufacturers have all made announcements recently about their future hybrid plans. Here’s a quick recap, in order of each hybrid’s expected release date:

April 2009 — Honda’s Hybrid

Honda’s Prius-fighting five-door hybrid-only model will see showroom floors next April, according to the company’s American executive VP Dick Colliver. He also said the new hybrid, which doesn’t have an official name yet, will be cheaper than the Prius. Honda plans to build 200,000 of the car globally, with about half of them to be sold in the U.S.

Sometime in 2010 — Nissan’s Hybrid

The first car to carry Nissan’s in-house hybrid technology (its previous hybrids used a system leased from Toyota) will be badged as an upscale Inifiti. The new hybrid features a lithium-ion battery and a V6 engine, but Nissan engineers say there are still some kinks to be worked out before the car hits the streets, notably a lag when the gasoline engine kicked in.

By 2020 — Toyota’s Full Line of Hybrids

The manager of Toyota’s advance powertrain program said at a seminar recently that the company plans to have hybrids in each of its product lines at the end of the next decade. He added that the 1 million hybrid Toyotas sold so far have saved 7 million tons of carbon monoxide emissions, and that the company wants to continue to develop cleaner powertrains. Toyota’s also working to develop hydrogen fuel cell technology to complement its domination in the hybrid market.

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