Toyota will reveal a Camry hybrid concept at the Los Angeles Auto Show with an engine that uses compressed natural gas.
The concept signals that Toyota's hybrid technology will be used with engines that operate on a variety of fuels.
"We are using this as an opportunity to state that we are getting back into CNG R&D and that we are adding CNG to our portfolio of alternative fuels," said John Hanson, a Toyota spokesman. "We see CNG as an alternative fuel for the future, especially considering what we see as a pretty definite peak oil situation around 2020."
Compared with gasoline, Hanson said, compressed natural gas has two disadvantages: a slight reduction in fuel economy and a little slower acceleration. But on the upside, there are "huge CNG reserves across the globe." Additionally, the hybrid would launch in electric mode, likely negating the acceleration issue.
Honda currently offers a nonhybrid, CNG-fueled model, the Civic GX NGV, which stickers for $25,760 including shipping. Fuel economy is estimated at 24 mpg city and 36 highway. The vehicle is rated as a partial zero-emission vehicle by the California Air Resources Board.
Toyota offered a nonhybrid, CNG-fueled Camry in 2000 and 2001.
"It was part of our California compliance program," said Hanson. "It was the wrong car at the wrong time. We only sold it for a year, and we didn't sell very many of them. Gas was pretty cheap."
(Source: Automotive News)