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Toyota to work on plug-ins, double its hybrid lineup

Toyota to work on plug-ins, double its hybrid lineup

After years of dismissing the concept of plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs), Toyota looks like it is finally warming to the idea. According to a statement published today on the carmaker's Japanese corporate Web site, Toyota "will advance its research and development of plug-in hybrid vehicles (which can be charged from an external power source and provide electricity) and is currently working on a next-generation vehicle that can extend the distance traveled by the electric motor alone."

This represents a change of tack from Toyota, which has led the field in hybrid-car technology through models such as the 2005 Toyota Prius and the 2007 Camry Hybrid but has opposed PHEVs on the grounds that they are less convenient than cars that charge themselves up as they go along.

In other hybrid-related news, Toyota said Tuesday that it is planning to double the number of its hybrid models in an attempt at hitting its target of selling 1 million hybrid cars annually by 2010. One of these will be the redesigned Estima Hybrid minivan, which Autoblog profiles here. Toyota also revealed plans to launch 100 percent ethanol-powered vehicles for the Brazilian market in 2007. In a press conference, Masatami Takimoto, Toyota's VP of technology development, said that the Japanese carmaker saw hybrids as "the core technology in the 21st century."