Wed, Jul 20, 2011 - Page 10 News List

Toyota utilizing hybrids to help with power crunch

MULTIPURPOSE:The company plans to include plug ins on Prius hybrids within a year so the cars can be used to run household appliances for up to two days

AP, TOKYO

Toyota’s electric-gasoline hybrid car technology will be utilized to help ease power shortages in Japan’s disaster-struck northeast, part of a set of measures the automaker hopes will underline its commitment to the region.

Toyota Motor Corp said yesterday it would donate emergency power supply systems linked to its Prius hybrid cars to prefectures in the Tohoku region ravaged by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

The systems will be fitted to about 40 of the automaker’s Prius hybrids. Hybrid vehicles can be used to store and generate electricity because it is partly an electric vehicle that runs on a high-quality battery.

Toyota’s hybrid technology has already been helping in quake--affected areas, which suffered massive blackouts, as an emergency source of electricity.

The automaker said the -positive reviews for its Estima hybrid minivan, which comes with regular electrical outlets to plug in and run household appliances for up to two days, are prompting it to make it available as an option for the Prius within a year.

Toyota also announced that it would set up a manufacturing training school in the northeast, hoping to send home the message it remains committed to making cars in Tohoku and Japan overall despite mounting obstacles.

Recruiting for the new technical school for high school graduates and employees of Toyota affiliates in the northeast will start in July next year. The first class for 10 to 30 students will begin in April 2013, the world’s largest automaker said.

Toyota also said it will donate ¥300 million (US$3.8 million) for educational help for children, many who lost their parents in the disaster, and another ¥3 million to support the arts in Tohoku.

Last week, Toyota announced it was consolidating its operations among Tohoku group companies and strengthening research and development in the region to make it Toyota’s third production center in Japan — after its headquarters in central Japan and Kyushu in the southwest.

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