Toyota and its premium brand Lexus will be launching three all-electric models by 2021. Until now, the giant car manufacturer has been cautious in embracing electrification…
Still Some Hesitation
Automakers all around the world are scrambling to achieve electrification. Rather than being motivated solely by environmental concerns, they’re racing against ever more stringent emissions targets. So it’s somewhat unusual that the world’s largest car manufacturer, Toyota, has been reluctant to invest heavily in electric models. So much so that the company’s vice chairman, Takeshi Uchiyamada once said, “the current capabilities of electric vehicles do not meet society’s needs, whether it may be the distance the cars can run, or the costs, or how it takes a long time to charge”.
Instead, it’s stood firmly by the hybrid technology it injected into the popular imagination via the Prius. Why? Because it doesn’t believe consumers are ready for electric cars and that hybrids are (at least for now) the best option. Simple, right? But something must be changing as Toyota will be, along with its premium brand Lexus, producing three all-electrics by 2021. Toyota pioneered hybrids in the late 90s, so it’s not surprising that they still play a fundamental role in the company’s strategy.
Not A Question Of Capability
Deputy chief engineer Naohisa Hatta emphasised that the company already had all of the technology required for electrification. He said, “if you look at a hybrid, it’s a battery, engine, motor and PCU. If you increase the battery part, then it becomes a PHEV. If you take ICE out, it becomes pure EV”. However, he stressed that the company was waiting for the right time to market all-electrics. He explained, “we already have the technology. We’re waiting for the right time. It has to make business sense. It has to make profit. If you look at the facts of what’s happening in the market now; for example, PHEV technology is reflected in the price. If we are going to have an EV in the line-up it has to be affordable to normal users.”
But Is Toyota Being Unreasonable?
Some western onlookers may react with dismay at Toyota’s approach to EVs. After all, the VW Group (the world’s second largest automaker) is pouring billions into electric models. Some of this is in response to the Dieselgate controversy, but it can’t all be marketing; they must have a viable business model in mind. The trouble is, of course, electric cars make up a negligible segment within the broader industry. Ranging anywhere between 1% and 3% in most countries. Model choices remain limited, charging infrastructure is improving but insufficient and range anxiety has not yet been dispelled. So EVs, inevitable as they may be, actually represent a major risk. If a company transitions too quickly, it could be manufacturing cars no one wants or, at least, feels as though they can’t integrate into their lives and routines.
For Toyota, it’s more than happy to see how the competition fares first. Let its rivals experiment with the technologies and consumer interest (or apathy). As Hatta pointed out, it’s not as though the company lacks the means or the capabilities to offer solid EV models when required. In the meantime, it sees hybrids as representing a comfortable middle ground; offering lower emissions and an accessibility most EVs simply don’t yet have. As for the three EVs it’s planning to release, we know practically nothing. At this stage, only their frenzied success may tempt the world’s largest automaker to take a gamble with the future…
Hybrid Cars: Are They The Unsung Heroes Of The Automotive Industry? – https://autoserve.co.uk/motoring-news/hybrid-cars-unsung-heroes/
‘Major Misconceptions’ Are Preventing Drivers From Going Electric – https://www.autoservefleet.co.uk/latest-news/major-misconceptions-are-preventing-drivers-from-going-electric/