Takeshi Uchiyamada, executive vice president of the Toyota Motor Corporation, began his speech at the Iacocca Auditorium on North Campus yesterday by putting on a University baseball cap, raising his fist in the air and exclaiming, “Go Blue!” The rest of his speech, however, was all about “going green” when it comes to using alternative types of cars and fuels.
“We must think seriously about new alternative fuels,” Uchiyamada said at the filled-to-capacity event titled “Shaping the Future of the Automobile.”
Toyota began selling the Prius — the hybrid car Uchiyamada is credited with conceptualizing — in the United States in 2000. In the past 10 years, voltage, speed and sales of the vehicle have increased, Uchiyamada said.
In 2012, Toyota plans to introduce new models of hybrids that will have larger battery capacities and the ability to recharge from an external source. Uchiyamada said these “plug-in hybrids” are also projected to be more affordable than current hybrid vehicles.
“It is important to find ways to reduce oil consumption by improving fuel economy,” he said.
Uchiyamada, credited with being the “Father of the Prius”, outlined Toyota’s plans to create an automobile that uses alternative energy sources and is more fuel efficient. He said the company will aim to increase the use of “smart grid” — when an automobile plugs into a grid to re-charge — and hybrid technologies.
Uchiyamada said Toyota hopes to continue to collaborate with both the University and Ann Arbor. Today, over 1,000 engineers work for Toyota in Ann Arbor.
“I hope some of you will also join our team,” Uchiyamada told the audience.
Uchiyamada added that the local Toyota technical center would be actively hiring University students in the future. He said the University has been a great help with research for Toyota in the past and he hopes this will continue into the future.
“I believe that it’s important that we have a lot of good students come from the University of Michigan to work at Toyota,” Uchiyamada said.
In addition to fuel efficiency, Uchiyamada said Toyota values safety. The corporation meets all safety guidelines for the countries selling Toyota automobiles, he said.
Toyota has been under fire in the past year after it recalled a number of vehicles for a variety of problems including unintended acceleration.
“But beyond that, we have our own standards that go beyond those regulations to make the vehicle safe,” Uchiyamada said.
Rackham graduate student Ye-sheng Kuo said he enjoyed Uchiyamada’s presentation, adding that it gave him a sense of Toyota’s plans for developing green technology.
“I think Toyota is a leading company in the future of vehicles for alternative energy,” Kuo said.