A blogging Toyota exec has fired back at a Wall Street Journal story that claimed the automaker has delayed by up to two years a plug-in hybrid Prius that uses lithium ion batteries. "To suggest that any timing has been changed for the introduction of a vehicle for which an introduction schedule hasn’t been finalized and published, using battery technology that we’ve previously said isn’t ready for prime-time, is – well, it’s curious and perplexing," wrote Toyota (TM) corporate communications exec Irv Miller on the company’s Open Road blog on Friday. Still, Miller indicated that you won’t see a lithium ion Prius hitting the road anytime soon. "We have consistently affirmed that there are many issues that need to be resolved, beyond the safety and reliability of lithium-ion batteries, before a commercial lithium-ion-equipped hybrid – and what we’re talking about here is the so-called plug-in hybrid, or PHEV – is ready for the market," he wrote. "These issues include battery cost, availability, performance and packaging. All of the car makers face the same problems when it comes to these issues. The answers, unfortunately, are not just around the corner.
Miller contends that "nobody has fully figured out the optimum use of lithium-ion batteries in automobiles" and thus "promises of longer driving ranges on a single charge appear to be several years away." Not exactly. Tesla Motors is preparing to roll out its lithium ion-powered Roadster later this year and has just named a new CEO to ramp up production. But what may have also incited Miller’s ire was the Journal’s suggestion that any delays will open the door for Ford (F), General Motors (GM) and Honda (HMC) to catch up to the industry’s technology leader.