Energy Tribune Talks with Toyota's Bill Reinert

Manager of Toyota's Advanced Technology Group leads efforts on dealing with a future, energy constrained world.

Published: 04-Feb-2009

Bill Reinert knows cars. He helped design the Prius, perhaps the most iconic “green” vehicle on the road today. Over the past few years, Reinert, an affable, irreverent engineer not known for holding his tongue, has become one of America’s most-recognized experts on automotive and technology issues. For some hard-core electric car advocates, Reinert is something of a villain. I met Reinert about three years ago at an energy conference and I consider him to be a friend. In the few hours that we have spent together (all of which have been highly entertaining and educational) I have found him to be the ultimate pragmatist. He looks at automotive technology and energy technology through the three essential lenses: energy density, cost, and scale. If the technology delivers on those three fronts, he’s willing to pursue it. If it doesn’t, forget it.

As the manager of Toyota’s advanced technology group, Reinert works out of Toyota’s Torrance, California office, where his team focuses on a variety of new technologies including hybrid-electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cells, electric vehicles, and plug-in hybrids. He was a leader in the effort to get Toyota to consider how the company would deal with a hydrocarbon-constrained world. That push led the company to commission a multi-year study from Dubai-based geologist Peter Wells, who has used a meticulous field-by-field analysis to estimate the peak in global oil output. Wells has predicted that peak output will come in about 2017. (Energy Tribune covered this issue last year.) Before joining Toyota in 1990, he worked on energy issues at Hewlett Packard. Reinert has a bachelors degree in biopsychology from the University of Missouri at Kansas City and a masters degree in energy engineering from the University of Colorado. He lives in Rancho Santa Margarita, California.

RB: You are one of the designers of the Prius. But you have made it clear that oil is going to be a key transportation fuel for a long time to come. Why?

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