Building Tomorrow's Toyota

We Go Behind Closed Doors to Discover the Future of Toyota

By Jacob Brown | April 24, 2013

Fruition and the Future

"You look at combustion technologies, and they've all had 100 years to improve. You look at hybrid technologies, and it's still so young," Ward says, noting the first Prius was introduced in 1997. "There's still a lot of opportunity left for improvement."
Ward says when Toyota started began seriously investing in hybrids, he was schooling some of his fellow engineers, who were new to electric motors. The engineers overseeing the project asked him how he knew as much as he did. "Remote-controlled cars," he said. Ward's business card says he's a manager. His diploma says he's an engineer. In reality, he's a tinkerer. He raced RC cars and put his knowledge to use at the world's largest automaker.
A few months ago, I saw a debadged Lexus HS 250h with antennae sticking from the roof and four Japanese engineers, all with laptops open, riding aboard. It was a testbed for the hydrogen-powered 2015 Toyota, so I'd learn. "We're going to be wrapping everything up right about now," Ward says of the production hydrogen car. "We're doing a lot of fundamental testing and tuning right about now. In fact, I've got guys on the road today in our prototypes." Ward says the avalanche of the future will start soon, using his wife's opinion as a bellwether at times to tweak his prototypes to work better for your average non-tech-savvy driver. But even then, he, along with Toyota, is both optimistic and cautious about his primary hydrogen project and the other new technologies coming out soon. Despite being all-new, it still has to work like a Toyota. "People believe we have a car that will last them forever," Ward says. "We can't let them down."
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