For the past few years Toyota has been broadly championing hydrogen fuel cell technology for “the next 100 years,” but plans may be changing.
According to a Nikkei business daily report, Toyota is preparing mass-produced long-range battery electric cars for 2020 initially targeted for Japan, California, and China.
The move toward cars with north of 186-miles (300 km) range is being interpreted as an implicit backing away by Toyota – or at least hedging of its bet – on fuel cell technology.
By creating alternate technology long-range zero-emission vehicles, Toyota will be effectively competing with fuel cell cars like its Mirai, and other FCVs spoken of as in the works.
What’s more, by the time these long-range EVs arrive in the next 3-4 years, their actual battery capacity and range could be competitive with others now being developed like the Chevy Bolt, Tesla Model 3, etc.
Toyota’s move thus also mirrors where several other automakers are technologically going.
Previously the automaker has said battery electric vehicles were best for short range commuting, and costs were too high, while charging times were too long.
As costs have come down, and charging infrastructure is being planned in far-broader scope, Toyota seems to be quietly doing an about face, but has otherwise said no comment on its future product plans.
Otherwise, the automaker has heard the objections by electrified vehicle enthusiasts over its quest for the hydrogen highway.
The name Mirai itself means “future” in Japanese, but Toyota predicted its sales would be initially slow, and this they have been as battery electric cars gain popularity and sell in higher volumes.
Calendar year to date, the very limited-market car has sold 813 units in the U.S.
Reuters reports also, the move could be mainly regulatory driven, as evidenced by the California and other key markets being in its sites.
“Toyota has been a major hold-out on EVs, but it appears that it now realizes that without them it may be difficult to satisfy tightening regulations,” said Takeshi Miyao, managing director of consultancy Carnorama.
However as Toyota has not commented, and not announced an outright cancelation in fuel cell vehicles, the future is still open to anyone’s conjecture –- even over the next 3-4 years, if not also “the next 100 years.”
Hat tip Brian Ro.