Has the sleeping giant finally awoken? Toyota is the largest manufacturer of automobiles in the world, but it has stubbornly refused to embrace the EV revolution — until now. CEO Akio Toyoda has been throwing bombs at electric cars for years. Recently, he warned darkly that electric cars would destroy the Japanese economy. He has clung stubbornly to the hydrogen fuel cell illusion while other manufacturers were fully embracing the EV revolution.
While Volkswagen was announcing plans to invest $100 billion to build battery factories, construct new factories, begin battery recycling programs, and expand the number of electric car offerings in its model lineup, Toyota was content to roll out an updated Mirai hydrogen fuel cell car and invest a paltry amount of money in a small West Virginia manufacturing facility that makes batteries and transaxles for hybrids — which Toyota insists on calling “self-charging electric cars.”
But suddenly, almost overnight, the scales have fallen from the eyes of Toyoda, who told the press this week, “We need to reduce emissions as much as possible, as soon as possible,” and the brands will “expand options for carbon neutral vehicles” which run on ‘clean’ energy.” The plan now is to sell 3.5 million electric cars a year by 2030, although EV fans know to be careful when parsing press announcements from Toyota. Very often, it lumps hybrids, plug-in hybrids, battery electric cars, and fuel cell powered cars all together under the label “electric cars.”
Autocar reports that the new goal is up from the 2 million electric cars a year Toyota planned to sell a year previously, but there again, what the company considers an electric car and what the rest of the world considers an electric car are two different things. Toyoda compares this target to Daimler, PSA, and other manufacturers with comparable global volumes to Toyota. “A significant volume is what we’re talking about here,” he said. The company has increased its investment in battery development by $4.4 billion to a total of $17.6 billion — still a long way behind the commitments made by Volkswagen, GM, or Ford.
As part of its announcement, Toyota released images of 15 concepts that may or may not reach production. There are two groups of them. The first is called the Lifestyle group — cars that are true concepts that may or may not ever see the light of day. They are shown in the photo at the top of this page.
The others are much more production-ready cars that will be part of the new Toyota bZ electric car brand. [bZ stands for “beyond zero.”] They have a family resemblance to the upcoming bZ4X that Toyota intends to bring to market shortly. Presumably, they all will share Toyota’s e-TNGA electric car chassis, which will also be the basis of the new Subaru Solterra.
Senior general manager of design Simon Humphreys said the spread of EVs on display showcases Toyota and Lexus’s belief that “future electric vehicles should be unique and special.” Some future EVs, according to Toyoda, will be based on existing models, and indeed some of the concepts bear a resemblance to current models, including the Toyota Tacoma and Lexus NX, but others will be new models based on the e-TNGA EV platform developed in cooperation with Subaru.
Details on each of these individual models have not so far been forthcoming, but Toyoda revealed that Lexus, in particular, will launch EVs in all segments by 2030, will go all-EV in Europe, North America and China by 2030, and will ditch combustion engines completely by 2035.
Below are photos of many of the proposed cars. They include pickup trucks, sports cars, shuttles, sedans, SUVs, and CUVs. What each will be powered by is anyone’s guess. Check out the photos and let us know in the comments what you think of this new future face of Toyota.
Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.