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Toyota Plans To Lose To Tesla — Just 1 Million Electric Vehicles By 2025

Toyota recently announced it is advancing its existing EV roadmap by 5 years. Instead of selling 1 million fully electric vehicles (BEVs), cumulatively, by 2030, the target year is now 2025. Tesla, meanwhile, will reach a 1 million BEVs sometime in early to mid 2020, at least 5 years ahead of Toyota. Even Volkswagen expects to reach that goal in late 2021. Toyota is essentially admitting defeat at this point.

Update: It was brought to our attention that Toyota might have said 1 million electric vehicles a year by 2025. This is not clear from the source material, but we have updated the article to assume that. The essence of the story remains the same.

Toyota recently announced it is advancing its existing EV roadmap by 5 years. Instead of selling 1 million fully electric vehicles (BEVs & Fuel Cell EVs), per year by 2030, the target year is now 2025. Tesla plans to sell 1 million BEVs per year by 2021, at least 4 years ahead of Toyota. Even Volkswagen expects to reach that goal in 2022. Toyota is essentially admitting defeat at this point.

Bertel Schmitt, longtime friend of Japanese Auto, has done a writeup of Toyota’s June 7th press conference from Tokyo. He tried hard to put a positive spin on things (a tough job). Here are some key points:

  • First, Toyota BEVs will sell in China in 2020, other markets later.
  • “BEV sales much higher than our original expectations” (Shigeki Terashi, Toyota R&D).
  • 2017 master plan for 5.5 million “electric and electrified” vehicles by 2030 now advanced to 2025.
  • “The 5.5 million vehicles consist of 4.5 million hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles, along with 1 million of the battery-electric and fuel-cell variety.” (Bertel Schmitt’s estimates)
  • Half of the 1 million BEV total will be in China, the rest split between Europe and US. (Schmitt)

Note that Toyota is still whistling the old fuel cell tune. Of the 4.5M sales of hybrids by 2025, Toyota hasn’t specified the planned HEV to PHEV mix. Since Toyota has been strongly pushing the “self charging hybrid” baloney, pure hybrids (without a plug) will likely play the lead role.

If we assume an annual doubling of full BEV (including FCEV) sales from their 2020 starting point, reaching 1M sales per year by 2025 gives the results shown in the above graph. It’s clear that Toyota’s roadmap is simply pathetic compared to Tesla’s or even VW’s plans.

Here are some more of Toyota’s statements from the press conference that shed a bit more light on the company’s thinking:

  • “Without new regulations, we will not meet the one million units … it will be fewer than a million.”
  • “Compared to conventional vehicles, it still is tough to achieve a profitable business with BEVs.”
  • “If all you want is building and selling BEVs, you will not assure a viable business.”
  •  “At this juncture, [battery manufacturing] equity investments remain limited to the agreement with Panasonic.”
  • “If possible by the time of the Olympics next year, we would like to make sure that solid-state batteries can be unveiled to the public.”
  • Toyota acknowledges that classical lithium-ion electrolytes continue to improve, and that initially solid state batteries “may not be cheaper that lithium-ion.”
  • [Shigeki Terashi has previously stated that Toyota is concerned about battery durability. “Battery capacity can drop by half over 5–10 years — the reason for low EV resale values.”]

Of course, Toyota is completely wrong about the durability of existing battery chemistries. Nissan recently said it typically now expects its LEAF batteries to remain useful for around 22 years, and that’s even without any thermal management. I’ve discussed Toyota’s false claim of about battery longevity (and EV resale values) before. By now, we all know it’s just FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) to scare the public regarding BEVs, and Toyota is just using it as an excuse for its inaction on EVs.

Toyota’s solid-state battery research fits with its narrative that existing battery chemistries are not good enough to allow for compelling EVs. Tell that to Tesla, Hyundai Kona EV, Kia Niro EV, and Jaguar I-PACE owners (amongst many others) who love their EVs and will never go back to gasoline or diesel cars.

The battery research is still in the lab phase. For those wondering, there are broadly two types of solid-state batteries: an intermediate form which uses a gel-like electrolyte (“gel state,” should we call it?), and full solid-state battery with a glass, ceramic, or other “hard” electrolyte (“true solid state,” if you will). Toyota’s R&D is likely the former kind, as these exist already, in low volume, for some niche applications.

It’s also interesting to see all the repeated FUD about EVs not being profitable. What Toyota really means is something more like, “EVs won’t yet be immediately as profitable for us as our ICE models, and we know that sales of our gasoline vehicles will be threatened if we release half-decent EVs. We’re thinking short term.” (Not an actual quote.)

Unfortunately for Toyota, other companies have already embraced the future, and are releasing fantastic EVs that folks are queuing up for, and so fossil vehicles sales are declining anyway.

I recommend a read of Schmitt’s article to see how hard Toyota acolytes have to work to put a positive spin on this news. What are your thoughts on Toyota’s announcement? For me, it just confirms that Toyota has already missed the boat. Let us know below.

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Max is an anthropologist, social theorist and international political economist, trying to ask questions and encourage critical thinking about social and environmental justice, sustainability and the human condition. He has lived and worked in Europe and Asia, and is currently based in Barcelona. Find Max's book on social theory, follow Max on twitter @Dr_Maximilian and at, or contact him via LinkedIn.


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