While highly successful in the business of car making, Toyota has long been cautious, and in the worldwide scramble to pepper showrooms with electric vehicles, it appears to have been stuck in the slow lane.
But maybe the wheel-dragging is not without reason. Maybe there’s more to the future than just BEVs.
Late last year, outgoing Toyota chairman Akio Toyoda defended the company’s strategy and electric vehicle development plans.
“Just like the fully autonomous cars that we were all supposed to be driving by now, BEVs are just going to take longer to become mainstream than the media would like us to believe,” he said.
He compared Toyota to a store selling a mix of vehicles to folk with different needs. Its corporate vision was to provide “freedom of mobility for all’.
Fuel cell electric vehicles using hydrogen to make electricity were in that mix as were hybrid-electric cars, a technology spearheaded by Toyota since the first Prius of 1995.
Now Toyota Australia plans to launch at least three EVs in three years, starting with the bZ4X SUV late this year.
This is a mid-sized, five-seat SUV with sharp style and underpinnings shared with the forthcoming Subaru’s electric Solterra.
Prices and specifications for Australia are yet to be announced but a semi-educated guess would have the electric Toyota starting somewhere around $65,000.
To emphasise commitment to EVs, Toyota will spend $20 million at Australian dealers for charging and service facilities at some 232 sites.
Toyota Australia’s Sean Hanley says all this demonstrates the company’s determination to be part of the solution in combating climate change. Toyota is committed to bringing electric vehicles to Australia, understanding these will play an ever-increasing role in helping the company and customers get to net-zero carbon emissions.
“We also know it will take many years for the significant challenges facing EVs to be overcome, including battery material shortages, less than adequate charging infrastructure and the ability to meet diverse customer requirements such as towing,” Mr Hanley said.
“That’s why it’s just too early – and too risky for the environment and our customers – to put all our eggs in the electric vehicle basket.
“Toyota will therefore maintain our strategy of developing as many technologies as possible – battery EVs where they are most appropriate and other electrified powertrains where that makes the best use of scarce battery cells.”
By 2030 Toyota globally planned to release 30 new EVs and lift EV sales to 3.5 million a year, investing $87 billion, utilising all manner of technology – battery-electric, hybrid, fuel-cell or any future technologies down the track.
And from this side of the showroom, Toyota’s approach toward clean and green motoring makes a deal of horse sense.
Full-on battery electric vehicles are not yet living up to all the hype.
Having quickly filled tanks and then driven hydrogen-fuelled electric Toyotas more than a decade ago – keeping well up with Los Angeles freeway traffic – we’d suggest there needs to be more recognition of other zero-emission solutions.