Rumor: Next-Gen Toyota Tundra will offer a Hybrid Powertrain

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Talking with the man behind Toyota’s trucks in Japan.

During a wide-ranging interview from Toyota Global Headquarters in Japan, Toyota’s Chief Engineer Mike Sweers shared many thoughts on the changing truck market and consumer demands. Reading between the lines from his comments, it is clear Toyota will address the fuel economy concerns for the Tundra as well as offer an environmentally friendly option.

Talking with Pickup Truck + SUV Talk, Sweers talked extensively on needing to meet consumer demands for better fuel economy without sacrificing power.

“Truck buyers want more power, even at the expense of fuel economy,” Sweers said. “But I have to balance those needs while offering a clean vehicle.”

Better fuel economy and power can be achieved in three different ways in today’s pickup market: small displacement turbocharged engines, diesel engines or hybrid engines. Sweers discusses each of these engines listing their pros and cons, mostly cons.

“The problem with (turbocharged engines) is, though my competition likes to say that it makes a much more fuel-efficient engine, under load it’s actually worse than the naturally aspirated engine,” Sweers said. “To cool those catalysts down you’re dumping raw fuel into those catalysts to cool down after the turbo exhaust. You’re burning rich in other words and burning rich means you have less fuel economy.”

He goes on to talk about the difficulties of a turbocharged engine, towing and leads into what he sees as the big problem – meeting emissions standards.

“I can’t put a two liter engine in a full-size truck and get it to pull 12,000 lbs responsibly but yet you know if I put a 5.0L or 6.0 liter v8 in that truck,” Sweers said. “How do I balance emissions and make sure that we’re being a responsible company as well. Those are all difficult conversations that are going on right now.”

Throughout the conversation, Sweers brings up the goal to be a clean company time and time again as well as working with the current emission and greenhouse gas regulations imposed by the EPA. The regulations seem to be the sticking point on a diesel engine coming to market for Toyota. Adding in the fact, diesel engines are falling out of favor worldwide and Toyota ending production of diesel cars in Europe, we can surmise this powertrain is out as well.

This leads us to a hybrid powertrain option. Toyota currently builds a hybrid powertrain for the RAV4, Highlander and C-HR while it also offers the hybrid in the Lexus RX, NX and UX SUVs. Ram now offers a hybrid V6 and V8 engine and there is talk about Ford bringing an F-150 hybrid to the market as well. It is really the only option that fits both problems: better fuel economy and emissions.

With the regards to Toyota’s “bad boys” (the big V8 powered vehicles) as Sweers refers to them as and the be a “responsible environmental partner,” a hybrid engine option makes all the sense in the world. Now, will it happen? We think so, but time will tell.

Tim Esterdahl is a regular contributor to YotaTech and Ford Truck Enthusiasts. He produces the weekly podcast Pickup Truck Talk.

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