The above chart, reproduced by The Truth About Cars, comes from Toyota chief engineer Satoshi Ogiso who is responsible for all new technology at the company.  It graphs Toyota’s vision of Peak Oil.

Accelerating automobile demand from developing countries is driving the supply shortage as the century advances.

It’s not that oil wells will suddenly go dry. Level headed people expect oil to flow unabated well into the future. The problem is vehicle growth. In the saturated established markets, vehicle growth is expected to be largely stagnant. It’s the exponential growth in emerging markets that will open a gap between oil supply and oil demand – if all those cars run on petroleum-based fuel.

Industry experts believe the supply-demand gap will become a serious problem in the 2015-2020 time-frame. With a lead time to 3 to 5 years, auto manufacturers around the world are wrestling with the question of how the gap will be filled.

Satoshi Ogiso is one of those experts who is pushing for a full court press with a portfolio of engine technologies:

“To control this gap, we must go multi track. We must improve gasoline and diesel engines. We must increase the number of hybrid models. We must produce the plug-in hybrid. We must develop city commuter electric vehicles. We already started small production of fuel cell vehicles.  We must do all these improvements at the same time.”

The Truth About Cars doubts that many auto manufacturers will be able to finance such a large scale investment strategy.

This translates into huge R&D costs which will be beyond the capabilities of many carmakers. The first victims…will be small carmakers who cannot keep up with the expense of a multitrack research program at breakneck speed with only small returns in the foreseeable future.

Toyota sees the conventional gasoline and diesel engine remaining popular although it doubts there is much room for improving engine performance. Most likely, the public will switch to hybrids with gasoline or diesel sharing the power plant with compressed natural gas or a biofuel like sugar cane or ethanol. Ogiso says:

“In 2020, hybrid will be mainstream. If  you can have two cars, then by 2020, you will likely have one tiny city commuter car that is pure electric. Your regular car will be a hybrid.

The pure hybrid will be the majority, next volume down will be the plug-in hybrid. Plug-ins can use pure electricity without people worrying about the range. Eventually, city commuter EVs will become popular. And of course, the conventional car will still remain on the market – especially in the developing countries, but even in Japan.”

Toyota is not as big on electric vehicles (EVs) filling the gap.  They will remain a niche city commuter vehicle for some time and are as likely to be powered by a hydrogen cell as a battery.  The company is confident, however, that once hydrogen cars are proven, the infrastructure to fuel them will quickly follow.

 

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