Good Toyota - Bad Toyota

The really cool, funny, goofy, tongue in cheek, and should have been legally OK according to fair use under parody of the Toyota logo, the one that was here with the cute little devil horns coming out of its head, has been forced off this page by Toyota PR and their legal team who didn't seem to have any sense of humor about it. They called us, then sent us a form letter! So I removed it to keep them happy. Now I'm sure Doug Korthof will call me a sell out again!  I'd in fact ironically borrowed the illustration from some other website, and it appears that cute little devil horn Toyota logo is widely used as a popular emblem by British Toyota Club owners, sold freely at truck stops and automotive parts stores in the UK everywhere! Is the Toyota legal team going to go after every single one of these Toyota owners who have the emblem stuck on the hood of their car? It would appear so, as I've been told that they have over 200.000 domain name holders they plan on pursuing for unauthorized use of their trademark. Take a cue from Google, let it be... otherwise all you will succeed in doing is alienate a lot of long time loyal Toyota fans and supporters.

ET webed

What's going on with all that Crushing sound?
July 6th, 2005

UPDATE :: NOV 20'05
Nickel-Metal Hydride
Pelican Brief

UPDATE :: JULY 31 '05

RemyC scratches his head!
(ET webed)

This good Toyota, bad Toyota stuff is getting a little weird, more so for ET, since our major sponsor is Toyota. Somebody needs to take a serious look at Toyota so we can discuss this sudden two-faced marketing agenda.

With GM it was clear cut... there were 1000 EV1s out there turned into pulp. But why is Toyota suddenly rubbing the wrong way the same customer base that makes the Prius such a commercial success?  What's Toyota's motive? How many RAV4 EVs are we talking about? Where's the story here?

Comments from Paul Scott:

According to Bill Reinert, there were "about 1400 RAV4 EVs made." There were 238 retail leases and 101 retail sales. These 339 RAVs in private hands will stay that way unless one of the lessees decides to turn the car in to Toyota rather than buy it out at the end of the lease, or sell it on the open market. We have been told by Toyota (Matt Carrillo) that only one such leased RAV has been turned in.

The balance of the vehicles supposedly are fleet leases and cannot be
bought. These are the cars we are trying to protect. Of those, it is assumed several hundred have been destroyed, but we don't know how many. From what we've been able to document, there are at least 300-400 still in use. This number could increase as we find more of them around the state.

The fleet leases have to be turned in. Some of the fleet leases are being given two year extensions, but then they have to be turned in. Toyota is claiming that they are taking the very best of these returns and providing them to parks and universities for temporary use, but even those eventually will have to go back for crushing. ALL of the fleet leased RAVs are being destroyed well before their useful life is over.

Comments from Bruce Meland
(ET publisher)

I am sure the decision on the RAV4 EV was made in Japan Headquarters. Perhaps the chief reason is the technical support. One RAV owner said to me some of the RAV4 EV owners are getting nervous about the battery life of the Panasonic NiMH batteries. They might try to unload them at 50,000 miles. Even though a lot of Southern California Edison meter readers using RAV4 EV's are getting over 100,000 miles per battery pack. Where are they going to get new NiMH batteries? Panasonic does sell them in the US any more. The option to use Li Ion is a possibility but expensive and a lot of owners are not hands on or have contacts to get replacement batteries. The Valence guys could be a possibility of taking on the replacement Li Ion battery project.

I think the future in safe propulsion batteries are going to be Li-Ion
batteries which Valence and Electrovaya in the US and many Chinese
companies like Thunder Sky, seem to be developing for propulsion use, and of course made in China. Unless the oil companies buy out this technology there is some ray of hope.

Comments from Josh Landess
(frequent ET contributor)

So far as I know, no one has sat down to try to write out the role that
Chevron-Texaco "may have played" in bringing about the present situation, which is that there do not seem to be any replacement NiMH batteries, nor NiMH batteries for much (if any) new manufacturing of BEVs or PHEVs.

I sometimes wonder what Toyota would have to say, given that Chevron- Texaco, via the Cobasys lawsuit, more or less seems to have "shut them up good" with respect to the terms under which they could make NiMH batteries.

A considerable portion of Toyota's future is now bet on having access to
legally-made NiMH for their hybrids, and so I doubt they would again risk
violating the terms of their agreements with Chevron-Texaco by, say,
manufacturing the somewhat-different NiMH for any new RAV4 EVs. I am, of course, speculating, and very much in the dark.

We do know though that even just in the last few months we have seen continued Press Releases (from Energy Conversion Devices of course) announcing further seemingly restrictive NiMH manufacturing licensing agreements, this time with at least two major Chinese battery manufacturers. The restriction, identified in the press releases, is that the licensing agreements only apply to non-propulsion batteries. Here is an example:

Doubtless there is some seemingly-harmless rationale for this distinction that is being made between NiMH for propulsion purposes and NiMH for non-propulsion purposes. It may seem harmless, but in the meantime, it would appear that several Chinese manufacturers are not licensed to make NiMH for propulsion, and that we (in the U.S.) are acting mystified that Chinese demand for Oil is becoming so huge that they are trying to buy an American Oil company. Perhaps their demand for Oil would be somewhat abated if our American Oil Company Chevron-Texaco made an effort to cut them licensing terms for BEV and HEV battery manufacturing that were less restrictive?

In the meantime, is anyone licensed to make NiMH for propulsion purposes? Anywhere?..., outside of those under other restrictions, such as those imposed in confidential the Toyota/Cobasys settlement? I don't think we've been able to find any real mass-produced genuinely-affordable genuinely-available possibilities for a project that I am on.... where the specs are pretty restrictive.

Could Sanyo (not sued under that dispute), if they wanted, make NiMH for propulsion purposes? Would there be hard-to-describe restrictions on their process? These aren't rhetorical questions from me... obviously Sanyo can make some NiMH for propulsion (as we find in the Ford Hybrid) but in our experience of discussing NiMH over the years, I think we have seen that the conversations and the licensing agreements and the technical-possibilities can get frustratingly complex.

We also know that the terms of the lawsuit settlement between the defendants (Toyota, Matsushita, and Honda I think?) in the Japanese suit and the plaintiffs (Cobasys or their reps) were confidential, but that they seemed to dictate that Toyota was not allowed to make NiMH for their Hybrids in North America until 2010 or something. At least I think that's what I've heard.

I am not trying to suggest that I "know" that these NiMH legalities are a huge factor in delaying (not completely stymieing... perhaps that would not be subtle enough for Chevron-Texaco?).... only that it would be a story worth exploring, among many, if the right authors could be found.


In response to the idea that Lithium-Ion is increasingly held up as a future solution for PHEVs and BEVs, a solution that renders the NiMH questions moot.


When I interviewed Valence for in November 2003, the specific motive I had was not that their chemistry is Lithium-Ion based, but that their batteries have a reputation for having solved the significant Lithium-Ion safety issue (the concern about runaway fire).

To my knowledge, there aren't that many other Lithium-Ion manufacturers out there who are making credible claims that they have solved this problem, although probably there are a few who are making claims. Off hand, I think I could only name one where they claimed they'd completely solved the problem (Hitachi?), and that claim seems to have been a couple of years ago and hasn't come up much since then. To be sure, the other significant Li-Ion BEV efforts do seem to be progressing forward, belying my concerns, so there must be a lot here that I don't appreciate. I am thinking, for example, of the Avestor Lithium Metal Polymer battery ... surely we'd have heard if it had prohibitive safety issues?

As an example of fire in a promising Li-Ion battery, I was told about an
Electrovaya fire that had some oomph to it, though they are said to have learned a good deal from that experience.

I do agree that Lithium-Ion efforts in general show a lot of promise, and that there are probably some out there which are safe enough so that I am somewhat overstating the safety issue, but I also think it's something to keep in mind, going forward. Even to this day, I was just reading about a similar safety-related-issue recall for some Lithium-Ion batteries in Apple's I-Pods (I think), made by a very respectable manufacturer, LG (same manufacturer, though not the same model, as for the Lithium-Ion in AC Propulsion's tzero).

The ongoing question marks I have in my mind about Lithium-Ion safety when used in motor vehicles cause me to try to not-take-for-granted that Lithium-Ion will work out. At that point, I remind myself to look into making sure that we haven't entirely written off other reasonable competing technologies, even if they do appear superceded by Lithium-Ion's wonderful superior capabilities.

Also, the experience we all had in covering the Veronica Webb EV fire in 2002 teaches us that this is, if nothing else, a serious issue where we must dot our i's and cross our t's. We cannot prevent any and all disasters when dealing with devices which hold so much energy, .... there is no such thing (at least not that I'm aware of) as 100% perfect safety when dealing with today's technology ... but I think we can make sure to carry our concerns as far as possible, and not provide a "criticism point" that could be used by the American Petroleum Institute, Western States Petroleum Association, et. al. (even if they do not show appropriate concern at times for the dangers and fatalities resulting from use of their own products).

In summary, I agree that it looks like Lithium-Ion is the future, particularly if Valence and a couple of others continue to make progress, but I am a little more wary than others of the safety issues, and I don't want to write off NiMH, particularly since it is really proving its mettle as an HEV product. Without NiMH, all those dozens of thousands of Hybrids wouldn't be out there functioning in consumer hands, and so I tend to keep an eye on whether it will still play a role in PHEV and BEV efforts that require larger batteries than are presently in the Non-Plug-In Hybrids already sold to consumers.

Stay tuned for more mayhem...

UPDATE :: JULY 31 '05
by Josh Landess

The wrap-up-for-now story on the Campaign to stop Toyota from crushing their RAV4 BEVs is that around mid-July 2005, the protest-leaders sat down with Toyota managers and, through negotiation, succeeded in getting Toyota to agree to stop their present policies. Here is a link to a copy of the announcement:

Big news from
"Toyota has agreed to stop crushing salable, useable RAV4 EVs!!!! With several hundred cars left out there, this is's biggest win yet, and we applaud Toyota's choice to be responsive to their customers!!!"
[further details of the agreement are available at the link above]

My own thoughts on this are that I want to give credit where it is due, and
discredit where it is due. There is this tendency amongst some BEV and PHEV advocates to try to swing back-and-forth between either saying that a car company is heroic and can-do-no-wrong and trying to say that they are generally deserving of harsh criticism.

I don't think these over-simplified constructs are very useful. By and large, a company like Toyota has some very good accomplishments and history for us to laud (the introduction of the Prius, their commitment to getting even more hybrids on the road, the sale (rather than just the lease) of a few of the RAV4 BEVs), and they have some points on which they, simultaneously, deserve the harshest of criticism.

For examples: Why did we have to beg them not to destroy vehicles which were so popular and which worked so well, and performed such excellent environmental duty by helping defer the creation of even more Global-Warming-Pollutants? Why do we have to beg them now to consider introducing a PHEV? If they have a special status amongst carmakers, as signatories to a special pact involving production of NiMH batteries for propulsion, then why do they continue to plead that the batteries do not exist to make affordable mass-production BEVs and
PHEVs? Most of these questions lead us to some answers which temper and contradict the theory that Toyota's is committed to making and selling the best possible vehicles.

Back to the Victory:

In the end, every mile that is driven by the NiMH-powered RAV4 BEVs that are left on the road is a mile that does more to further dispel the myths about these vehicles. This is part of what this protest has accomplished.... to allow these vehicles to continue to demonstrate, permanently, for the entire world, some of what can be done to make a good useable desirable BEV.

They are not "unworthy and unwanted". Although it is hard to understand
everything about a very non-transparent situation (hindered by a very confidential international legal agreement over NiMH batteries) there is mounting evidence to suggest that these NiMH vehicles, and whatever improved successors could be built, can be made affordably and in mass-production, and buyers can be found for them.

Since a broader mass-production effort has never been tried (by anyone, that I'm aware) it is difficult to predict with certainty that such an effort would be a success, but as this old RAV4 BEV effort is allowed to continue to show what can be done, with every mile we see that it is worth giving consideration to possibly making more of this type of vehicle.

We have these few vehicles continuing on the road because of the extraordinary commitment made by the protesters, and the willingness of a Toyota management team to finally listen to reason...although it took them a long time to do so. Toyota's management team's willingness to listen to reason can be contrasted, say, to GM's management team which was far more committed to crushing excellent in-demand vehicles for which they had significant cash-offers.

I keep thinking of the Ford Th!nk City EV situation. We should never have had to beg Ford (or any of these other automakers including Toyota) to not crush such popular excellent vehicles, but we did have to beg them. We finally succeeded in getting Ford to relent (apparently) and they agreed not to crush the vehicles, but to send them back to the maker, in Norway. They agreed not to dismantle the very plant itself, but to sell it. In the end though, it paid to be skeptical as to whether Ford had, as a collective, learned any lesson at all, and we had to go through the entire affair, all over again, with the Ford Ranger EV.

So, Ford deserved both credit and discredit, and (importantly) their excellent decision to not crush a BEV was not a sign that we could let our guard down or assumed that they had any good intentions or had learned anything at all. Their decision to relent and not crush a few Th!nk City EVs did deserve credit, but this does not mean that they should, as a collective, instantly be granted hero-status. They proved this when they so wrongly made us go through the whole thing all over again with the Ranger EV.

Likewise, we can apply this lesson to how we take our victory in this effort to stop Toyota from crushing BEVs. Although Toyota seems to have earned, overall, a higher consideration from many of us than we generally grant to Ford, in light of the extraordinary reliability of many of their vehicles, the excellence of their Hybrid commitment, etc., we can also withhold an overdone "full unqualified" praising of the company. We can note that we are glad that they stopped crushing BEVs, and ask why they made us beg them to do this, ...

... and why aren't they making more of what are, in the eyes of some, the very best vehicles that Toyota has ever made?

Imagine... a hybrid, or a pure EV?
Come on? What do you say?
Save The Planet Today!

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