At a special event hosted by the Economic Development Department (EDD) at COP17 on Friday, 9 December 2011, the government extended its gratitude to Toyota SA Motors for the motor manufacturer’s support and assistance during COP17. Toyota supplied a ‘green’ fleet of 30 (mostly) hybrid vehicles that was used to transport Ministers of State and senior officials to the various COP17 events.

Johan van zyl Richard Levine

In his address, the Director-General for the Economic Development Department (EDD), Professor Richard Levin, personally thanked Dr Johan van Zyl, President and CEO of Toyota SA Motors, and acknowledged Toyota’s role in providing low-emission mobility for delegates at this year’s COP17 Climate Change Summit.

“We would like to thank Toyota from the EDD’s side for supplying the 30-vehicle fleet comprising Lexus Hybrids, Auris Hybrids and Quantums that transported government officials, delegates and representatives during COP17 – Toyota made it possible for senior government leaders and officials to undertake their work without damage to the environment,” Professor Levin said.

COP17 was, of course, the appropriate forum to acknowledge Toyota’s contribution to saving the planet; after all the Japanese automaker has been named the “Greenest Global Brand” in the most recent Interbrand study spanning the 10 biggest consumer markets.

And, as Dr van Zyl pointed out, this is a completely substantive title: “Toyota’s vision is simple – strive to reduce all types of emissions as we work towards the ultimate goal of sustainable mobility. It’s worth remembering that while the world has been debating alternative-powered vehicles, Toyota has already put more than three million hybrids on the road.

Lexus SA

“But, that’s just part of the story… The focus is on more than just producing environmentally-friendly vehicles; sustainability means making cars in cleaner plants that are as energy-efficient as possible as well as supporting initiatives and creating lasting partnerships that are aimed at reducing man’s negative impact on this planet. Toyota is definitely at the forefront of the green economy.”

On the road to zero-emission vehicles

In the journey towards sustainable mobility Toyota is working on reducing CO2 emissions in a quest to halt global warming. The other target is to improve air quality, reducing especially Particulate Matter (PM) and Nitrogen Oxides (NOx). Faced with these challenges, Toyota has been investing for many years in the development of powertrains that use different energy types including electricity, petrol, diesel and alternative fuels.

Hybrid technology is at the heart of the solution because it can be applied to raise the efficiency of each of these powertrains. In short, new Hybrid Synergy Drive (HSD) technology combines driving pleasure with fuel economy, low emissions and silent driving in Electric Vehicle (EV) mode. The result is that Toyota has extended its full hybrid technology to core Toyota and Lexus models – and that includes South Africa.

Prius, Lexus GS 450h, RX 450h, CT 200h, and now Auris HSD are the latest local recipients of this technology. Also in the pipeline for 2012 is the new Yaris HSD. It’s worth noting that not all hybrids are equal. Unlike “mild hybrid” alternatives whose electric power acts only to assist the petrol engine, all Toyota and Lexus hybrid vehicles are equipped with a “full hybrid” system capable of running exclusively on electricity. This is why Toyota’s hybrid technology offers superior fuel economy and driving performance with lower CO2 emissions.

The next major step in Toyota’s efforts to create the eco-car is the Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (soon to become available in Europe in the Prius) – the PHEV can be charged either during driving like a regular hybrid or by connection to a normal household plug. The new PHEV Prius can travel around 30km on electricity alone, up to a speed of around 100km/h, silently and with zero emissions.

Also due for launch in the USA within the next couple of months is the RAV4 EV (Electric Vehicle). The newcomer is the first fruit of Toyota’s multi-million dollar investment in US electric car pioneer Tesla. A 300kg battery pack mounted under the floor powers a 108 kW electric motor to give a 0-100 km/h sprint time of only nine seconds and a top speed of over 160 km/h. The range from a single, 12-hour charge is around 160 kilometres.

Toyota’s 360-degree approach

Toyota believes that the only way to achieve its goal of zero emissions and zero waste is to adopt a total 360-degree view of its activities – and apply innovative technologies to reduce the impact of its business on the environment. It therefore stands to reason that sustainable vehicle design must be followed by sustainable production and sales operations as well as partnering with local communities to improve the quality and biodiversity of the environment.

49M Energy Reduction Initiative

In Europe and Japan Toyota has several industry-leading “green” plants but even in South Africa, Toyota has taken action in harmony with its corporate motto by leading the way in energy reduction at its production plant in Prospecton, Durban. Toyota SA Motors has pledged its support to the 49M Energy Reduction Initiative and is fully committed to the ongoing reduction in energy usage at all its facilities.

Starting with a targeted reduction programme in April 2010, dedicated energy reduction teams studied and evaluated all areas of the business to identify areas for possible reduction. The philosophy behind the project mirrored that of Eskom by identifying even the smallest area of improvement for a significant overall benefit.

Energy reduction projects initiated to date include lighting automation, for example the automated switching off of lights during non-production times. Other energy-saving steps comprised the optimisation of heating, ventilation and air-conditioning times and reconfiguring air compression systems to optimise usage to align it with plant demand times.

Toyota South Africa COP17

Additional initiatives include pumping optimisation and reconfiguration as well as the installation of variable speed controls on the pump motors to synchronise with usage.

Larger energy reduction moves include using solar heating and heat pumps, optimising boiler set points, recovery of steam condensate and the insulation of all heating equipment to contain energy losses.

Total savings to date amount to over 12 000GJ or around R2 million over the period.

Toyota Enviro Outreach

The Toyota Enviro Outreach programme is the most recent example of how Toyota SA Motors partnered with 20 scientists from seven countries for two weeks to collect plant and animal samples for DNA barcoding as part of the 2nd International Barcode of Life (iBOL).

On October 8 the scientific expedition set off from Johannesburg in a fleet of eight specially equipped Toyota Hilux and Fortuner vehicles to gather more than 3 000 plant, spider, insect, fish and mollusc samples from the eight interlinking ecosystems in Africa’s largest estuarine system, the sweltering iSimangaliso Wetland Park in KwaZulu-Natal. Comprising 332 000 hectares of lakes, estuaries, swamp forests and massive 25 000-year-old coastal dunes, iSimangaliso (“miracle and wonder”) was listed as South Africa’s first World Heritage Site in 1999 and is the country’s third-largest national park, stretching from Maphelane (Cape St. Lucia) in the south to Kosi Bay in the north.

All voucher specimens collected have been earmarked for deposition in major national collections where they will be available for examination and in-depth analyses by researchers. The project will also expand the electronic information base on South African biodiversity and facilitate the growth of the National Collecting Programme.