Toyota Motor Corp. plans to sell ethanol-powered vehicles in the United States by 2008, following the lead of domestics General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co., the Financial Times reported on Wednesday, citing an unnamed company executive.
A Toyota spokeswoman in Tokyo acknowledged that Japan’s top auto maker was developing flexible-fuel vehicles, mainly for the ethanol-smitten Brazilian market for starters, but declined to disclose specific product plans.
“We’re proceeding with development of ethanol-based cars for Brazil, but for other markets we are gauging what needs there are first,” she said.
Toyota, a market leader in gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles, has resisted the technology amid worries about the impact of highly corrosive ethanol on rubber seals in the engine, the Financial Times said.
U.S. automakers have produced about 6 million flexible-fuel vehicles, with many running on E85, or a fuel blend consisting of 85 percent ethanol, or ethyl alcohol, and 15 percent gasoline.
Toyota’s new vehicle would be fitted with anti-corrosive parts to meet U.S. regulations, but the automaker suggested that a less ambitious strategy of mixing only 10-15 percent ethanol into gasoline might produce greater savings, the paper said.
Toyota is still keen to spread the use of hybrid vehicles, which save fuel by twinning a conventional engine with an electric motor, the spokeswoman said.
President Bush has called for more ethanol use to reduce foreign oil imports, but fewer than 1,000 of the nation’s 170,000 filling stations currently sell E85.
Bush has set a six-year goal for making ethanol practical and competitive as an alternative fuel, and vowed to fund additional research into ways to make it not just from the commonly used corn but also from wood chips or grasses.