Toyota considering plug-in hybrids and flex-fuel vehicles for U.S.

Toyota plans to develop a plug-in hybrid vehicle, the company announced this week. Rechargeable via any typical electrical outlet, a plug-in would be able to “travel greater distances without using its gas engine, … conserve more oil, and slice smog and greenhouse gases to nearly imperceptible levels,” said Jim Press, president of Toyota’s North American subsidiary. The technology is far from ready, and the automaker has no timeline for offering the cars for sale, but hey — we’ll give it points for pressing forward with the R&D while other companies dawdle. Toyota is also taking a serious look at bringing flex-fuel cars capable of running on an E85 ethanol blend to the U.S. market, putting pressure on America’s beleaguered Big Three automakers, who recently announced that they will double production of flex-fuel vehicles. Toyota already produces E85-capable vehicles in Brazil. Toyota, which dominates the regular hybrid market, also plans to introduce hybrid versions of all its current vehicle models.