The EV Future — Volkswagen vs. Toyota In One Picture

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A picture says more than a thousand words.

The Dutch e-mobility growth expert Paul-Jan Jacobs likes to make his points clear with infographics. He made a good one recently.

The Volkswagen Group and Toyota are equal in size. Both produce and sell just over 10 million vehicles per year. However, they have quite different EV plans.

Toyota started reducing CO2 decades ago with its hybrid electrification technology, when VW was betting heavily on “Clean Diesel.” Toyota became synonymous with hybrids and electrification. Volkswagen paid tens of billions in fines, with some managers even doing jail time.

But then something strange happened. From these very different starting points to today shows a picture nobody would have expected a decade ago. The leader in electrification two decades ago is now the laggard whose survival is in doubt. The company that came close to a near-death experience by betting on the wrong horse (and playing dirty) is seen by many as the leader of the legacy carmakers.

Volkswagen needed an alternative for diesel with the coming European Union corporate fuel standards, and ASAP. All of its capacity was added to its struggling EV efforts.

Toyota invested many billions in hydrogen fuel cell (HFC) technology and some in solid-state batteries. It refused initially to put a plug into its hybrids because it would only confuse the public, and the path forward was HFC EVs.

Volkswagen has a platform strategy, and the ambition to succeed where it failed with clean diesel.

Toyota has a stopgap to bridge the time until HFC EVs are ready for the market, and no ambition to play a role in the electric car market any larger or any longer than needed before it can switch to HFC.

The Volkswagen allies are companies dedicated to making it in the EV market — Ford compensating its own insufficient development under its previous CEO; e.go, an ambitious startup from Aachen; and all of its Chinese partners.

The Toyota allies form a defensive alliance to do the minimum that is needed until they know what kind of future there will be for them, taking refuge behind BYD’s skirts.

The difference between the two is the result of ambition and focus, based on different expectations of the future.

To quote Steve Hanley about who is right: “we’ll see, said the Zen master.”

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Maarten Vinkhuyzen

Grumpy old man. The best thing I did with my life was raising two kids. Only finished primary education, but when you don’t go to school, you have lots of time to read. I switched from accounting to software development and ended my career as system integrator and architect. My 2007 boss got two electric Lotus Elise cars to show policymakers the future direction of energy and transportation. And I have been looking to replace my diesel cars with electric vehicles ever since. At the end of 2019 I succeeded, I replaced my Twingo diesel for a Zoe fully electric.

Maarten Vinkhuyzen has 280 posts and counting. See all posts by Maarten Vinkhuyzen