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Auto blogWed, 20 Nov 2013 08:15:00 EST
When Toyota first conceptualized a gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle for mainstream Americans to drive, the initial response was pretty skeptical. Still, through relentless engineering and solid product after solid product, Toyota has built the Prius brand into the dominant force in the hybrid car market.
Something like that plan of attack is what the Japanese company is preparing for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, as well, and that attack is seeing a critical salvo fired today with the debut of this FCV Concept at the Tokyo Motor Show.
Though there's nothing substantive to be said about rumors of a 300-mile range or a sticker price around $50,000, the FCV concept does offer a few technical details. The sharp-beaked concept makes use of two high-pressure hydrogen tanks and boasts a power output density of three kilowatts per liter.
If you're planning on buying a new car in the next month or so, you might want to pick from what's on the lot, because there could be a long wait for new vehicles from the factory. Locomotives continue to be in short supply in North America, and that's causing major delays for automakers trying to move assembled cars.
According to The Detroit News, there are about 180,000 new vehicles waiting to be transported by rail in North America at the moment. In a normal year, it would be about 69,000. The complications have been industry-wide. Toyota, General Motors, Honda and Ford all reported experiencing some delays, and Chrysler recently had hundreds of minivans sitting on the Detroit waterfront waiting to be shipped out.
The problem is twofold for automakers. First, the fracking boom in the Bakken oil field in the Plains and Canada is monopolizing many locomotives. Second, the long, harsh winter is still causing major delays in freight train travel. The bad weather forced trains to slow down and carry less weight, which caused a backup of goods to transport. The auto companies resorted to moving some vehicles by truck, which was a less efficient but necessary option.
The performances of some Toyotas in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) regimen of crash tests leave something to be desired. Consider the small overlap frontal crash test: only six Toyota, Lexus and Scion vehicles have undergone the new test, yet all but one of them received a poor rating. Osama Nagata, CEO of Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America Inc., says midcycle vehicle updates are in the works to address the safety issues brought to light by the IIHS test, Automotive News reports. He confirmed that the RAV4 is getting safety updates following its crash test performance last month, but he didn't name any other models.
All three Toyotas that were tested - 2013 RAV4, 2012-2013 Prius V, 2012-2013 Camry - received poor ratings. The 2007-2012 Lexus ES 350 and 2006-2013 IS 250/350 also received poor ratings. The only other Toyota Motor Corp. vehicle to score better than poor is the 2014 Scion TC. It received an acceptable rating in the small overlap frontal crash test and is the only recent vehicle in Toyota's line-up to get the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ rating.
The small overlap front crash test measures the safety of a car when its front left corner is strikes an object during an accident, bypassing traditional crumple zones, which deform in a way to protect passengers. In 2009, automakers were alerted to the forthcoming addition of the test, which was first implemented last year, IIHS spokesman Russ Rader says. They responded with differing intensity, he says, pointing out that Subaru and Honda started incorporating design changes early on so their cars would perform well in the tests.