There have been headlines in the last week suggesting Toyota is emerging from its “sleeping giant” phase when it comes to building electric cars. First came news that it will develop a new chassis specifically designed for electric cars in collaboration with Subaru. That was followed by an announcement that it planned to sell 1 million cars with plugs by 2025 (whoopdedoo!)
Last week, the company issued a detailed press release about its plans. The folks at Jalopnik have done a deep dive into the details of that announcement and come up with a better understanding of Toyota’s electric car plans for the future.
First things first. The new chassis Toyota and Subaru will create will be called e-TNGA, a derivation of the Toyota New Global Architecture platform the company uses to build many of its internal combustion powered vehicles today. Think of it as the Japanese version of Volkswagen’s MEB electric car toolkit.
Certain critical dimensions of the e-TNGA chassis will be fixed — primarily attachment points for electric motors and battery packs — but almost every other dimension of the cars can be stretched to meet the needs of the marketplace. They can be made wider, taller, or longer with more or less front and rear overhang. The batteries can be longer but not wider.
“The platform will be developed in a way that will make it broadly applicable to multiple vehicle types, including C-segment-class and D-segment-class sedans and SUVs, as well as to efficient development of derivative vehicle models, ” Toyota says. The concepts shown above look like an unhappy marriage between an armadillo and Brinks truck. How Toyota expects to sell such unremittingly ugly cars is a great mystery.
One interesting detail is that the new chassis will permit the use of front wheel drive only vehicles — something that neither Tesla nor Volkswagen plan to offer. It will also accommodate hydrogen fuel cells, something that Toyota has been firmly committed to for years.
Here’s another tidbit from the Toyota press release. The collaboration on electric vehicles won’t be limited to just Subaru. Suzuki and Daihatsu will be included as well to bring the benefits of electric vehicles to the small and microcar markets.
Speaking of smaller vehicles, here are several ultra-compact concepts from Toyota. The three wheel i-ROAD on the left has a top speed of 37 mph and 31 miles of range. Toyota says it is intended to “serve as the last-mile in urban areas.” The two seater in the middle also has a top speed of 37 mph and a range of 60 miles. The black car on the right is described as a “business concept model.”
Toyota has other electric mobility products in the works. The scooter shown above is scheduled for 2020; the other two are expected to debut in 2021.
Toyota gets slammed frequently for its negative attitude toward electric cars. We have heard recently that it is running commercials for its Prius hybrid cars — which it rather disingenuously calls “self charging electrics” — that show a sword severing an EV charging cable. It insists on humping the fuel cell meme even though nobody in the world wants to actually buy one.
It is being dragged kicking and screaming into the electric car future whether it likes it or not, even if its goals can only be charitably described as modest at best. But as the EV revolution gains momentum, Toyota is in danger of being left behind, no matter how many other companies it partners with.