Big Naturally Aspirated Engines Still A Focus For Toyota: Report Photo:

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Trevor Collett | Oct, 17 2013 | 17 Comments

Toyota’s drivetrain boss has revealed the Japanese carmaker will continue to invest in the development of large naturally-aspirated engines, despite an industry-wide focus on downsizing to smaller turbocharged engines.

Speaking with US industry paper Automotive News, Koei Saga said that while Toyota is still working on turbocharging technology for the future, he doesn’t expect to see it sitting across the entire range.

The drivetrain boss said he believes many buyers of models with turbocharged engines are looking for a performance boost, rather than better economy.

Mr Saga said that significant improvements to naturally-aspirated engine technology can be made through advancing the Atkinson cycle - as used with the combustion engines in many hybrid models - rather than the more conventional Otto cycle.

Atkinson cycle engines are currently used in Toyota’s hybrid models, which also use CVT transmissions; another technology that Saga believes is heading for major improvements.

Mr Saga described future development of CVT technology as “crucial and important”, but concedes the transmission is not suited to larger, more powerful models.

"The Corolla CVT has great acceleration. Drivers are thinking they are in a car with a great automatic transmission," Saga said during an interview earlier this year.

The powertrain boss also spoke about the future of hybrid battery technology and electric vehicles for Toyota.

The carmaker will continue with existing battery technology in its hybrid models in the near term, rather than moving across to lithium-ion batteries (as used in the Prius Plug-in Hybrid).

Mr Saga believes that while lithium-ion batteries are the future, they cannot currently match the longevity of nickel batteries.

"A lithium ion battery can deliver the same energy in a 30 percent smaller package, but the life span and durability is outstanding for the nickel battery," Mr Saga said.

When questioned about the future plug-in Prius however, Mr Saga said lithium ion batteries were “a must”.

As for EVs, Mr Saga believed the model segment did not show signs of growth, saying that many EV sales were simply "the same wealthy buyers returning to purchase their third or fourth car”.

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