Masatami Takimoto, Executive Vice President of Toyota gave a presentation at the Toyota Environmental Forum held in Japan that outlines the company’s strategy for meeting the needs for as they put it, “a sustainable mobility society.” That might be music to rural, suburban and others who need to cover miles for life to go on as we know it.

This is a link to the page where the videos and pdf files are from the forum. The videos will make sense if you speak Japanese, but the pdfs serve to tell what was going on. But the main issue for us is the graph:

Toyota\'s Graph of Scenarios for Future Fueling

The graph sets out a grouping of paths that while technically incomplete, is indicative of the main routes to powering by internal combustion, electric vehicle and the fuel cell hybrid vehicle. Its interesting – the paths across the graph source from the known to the in development sources on the left across a set of walls that are labeled to illustrate the issues that remain.

Being we’re all optimists those brick walls look like challenges and opportunities. It’s a pretty good listing and when examined with the routing paths set out with the colored lines the thinking of what might any day be the world’s largest automotive producer is plain to see.

Let’s have a look because we’re looking to invest, find work, or buy the products of the future so these views are worth having in mind for the next half-decade or so.

The first route in yellow is oil products that leads straight to internal combustion. The barrier here is shown to be production from deep-sea oil sands, shale and others. While that is in part true it overlooks the available oil that is “sour” or laced with sulfur which if refining capacity was allowed to adjust would shave a few of not many dimes per gallon from the price of gasoline. Note that this fall a new refinery will open in India to take high sulfur oils from the Middle East to be cleaned and refined then sold to the U.S. and E.U. There could be Canadian oil get there too, as the ConocoPhillips unit in Illinois and a proposed refinery somewhere in the Dakotas are stuck by the greenies for now.

The yellowing to brown path of natural gas has two brick walls. The first is “gasification/storage technology.” That is something of a small wall as the technology is well enough known. Even smaller is the “build infrastructure” wall, which is actually for most of the developed economies in place needing only some compression facility to feed vehicles if the price of gas can stay advantageous to motor fuels. I’m dubious about that as the trading crowd has made clear that the price of natural gas is set to chase the price of oil. Diverting natural gas to generate electricity is dopey enough, but to divert even more to motor vehicles will be a disaster for home heating costs.

The next path has three sources, natural gas, coal, and biomass plus two brick walls all to yield internal combustion fuels through synthetic fuels. Toyota is looking at natural gas to liquids, coal to liquids and biomass to liquids. The smallest wall of “gasification/synthetic technology” is well researched and waits for – higher prices as converting natural gas to liquid fuels is going to be a price test and coal will need a great deal of hydrogen added that’s also either a price issue or lots of unused carbon left behind and noted in the next wall of “CO2 reduction technology during production.” The only clean source is biomass which brings along its own hydrogen but tends to come out in low cost production as light alcohols i.e. methanol or ethanol.

The next is biomass showing three walls. The first is “obtain desired properties” that is a bit of a mystery as ethanol isn’t something but what it is. The biodiesel side could use some property work in algae, but the oil seeds from soy in the U.S. on to jatropha are still looking for standards that can be used economically and enforced without undue costs to society. The science and techniques are known. Next is a little taller wall of “technology utilizing cellulose” that is rushing to closure across a wide range of sources. The last wall is “stabilize supply” which I suppose from a Toyota standpoint would be something that would need mandated in a legal way to compel E-10, E-85 or even E-100 across many markets. The technology is in hand; it may be more of a cost per vehicle sold issue to a vehicle manufacturer.

Electricity generation is next with all the sources applied with nuclear and hydro, solar, geothermal and I would think wind all facing four walls. Both the first and last wall are “storage technologies”, which if there was ever a sign for opportunity hung out, this is it! While the Toyota view is based in storage for Plugin Hybrid Vehicles and Electric Vehicles, the fact is that grids can use storage too. There is a lot happening here and in truth as I see it, most all efficient storage mediums will have good to outstanding futures. Another small wall is “infrastructure development,” a bugaboo for the developed economies due to costs both in materials but also in legal matters energized by environmental types, to get the power from where its generated to where its needed. In the developing world – they simply have a long way to go. Lastly is the wall for “CO2 reduction” that may stay on the radar or not depending on whether the global warming issue stays in mind. More valid is pitching all the other junk into the sky from burning coal that should get everyone’s attention.

Finally we get to hydrogen production that Toyota sees as fueled from all sources and with three walls. Remember Toyota is looking today with what they can with high probability count on for running these scenarios into the future so much of what we’ve seen on these pages over the past year are not on their radar yet. But what is interesting is the wall size selected for “hydrogen storage technology,” which I would have thought, would be much more of a problem. “Infrastructure development” is also a mid sized wall that is by any publicly known system still a serious issue. Toyota recognizes that in the current sources there will be excess carbon produced although whether or not its CO2 precisely depends on the source and the process.

There remain two dash lines in blue for “Hybrid Technology” and red for “Plugin Hybrid Technology.” The point is lost on me as all the walls and all the paths are enclosed so that might be the point. It would be nice to get such a noteworthy person as a Vice President of Toyota translated into various languages so we’d know better what he meant. If any one finds a link, let me know.

The point here today is that there is a way out of the fuel price crisis that will keep our standard of living intact or maybe even better with what is known today. The other point is that there are six routes that will be in play and we might be looking at choices we haven’t had to consider in the past. The opportunities are stunning. The changes in my view are glorious. I wish to thank Toyota for thinking through and condensing their thoughts into such an organized concept as the graph above. It offers many uses for many more people than a first impression might suggest. Good job, it is from Toyota after all.


3 Comments so far

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