Having long basked in an enviro-reputation for its hybrids, Toyota has been saying battery electric cars don’t make sense, and as it prepares to show its fuel cell car to the U.S. next month, it’s said more.
“Today, Toyota actually favors fuel cells over other zero-emission vehicles, like pure battery electric vehicles,” said Craig Scott, the company’s national manager of advanced technologies. “We would like to be still selling cars when there’s no more gas. And no one is coming to our door asking us to build a new electric car.”
In response, EV advocates have viewed this “no one” wants a Toyota EV statement with feelings ranging from dismay to disgust to finding it humorous. The quote was originally given to the LA Times as Toyota amps up for its FCV preview.
But do people really not want Toyota to engineer and produce a battery electric car?
It’s being said customers would ask Toyota to build an EV, but marketers tend to focus on their corporate strategy, and the negative outlook on lithium-ion battery cars has been the view from Japan for a few years now.
At the same time it’s been reported Toyota is at work in Japan on more-advanced batteries for use in EVs that would provide better energy storage, more convenient charging, better cold weather durability, and all around make for a superior electric car.
So while it seems to some Toyota is quitting early, characteristic of Japanese manufacturers, Toyota is a long-range planning company. It yet considers its options open, and is at work on technologies including solid state chemistry even if its U.S. arm is playing out of the Japanese corporate playbook it’s been handed.
And for now, Toyota is focused mostly on fuel cells.
As noted, the fuel cell vehicle is getting a big boost as the the company prepares for corporate big wigs to show the media their company’s first FCV in Newport Beach, Calif. This will happen Nov. 16-18, a couple days in advance of the LA Auto Show in Long Beach to air the point-counterpoint, and make Toyota’s case.
The company also is at work on an improved plug-in Prius hybrid – a car now rated for 11 miles EV range, and the lowest of plug-in hybrids sold stateside. Unknown is Toyota’s range goal, but it will use li-ion batteries, and Toyota is at least dedicated to this model.
But Toyota has exhibited a habit of saying things negatively against EVs, and this may not be helping it. To us in New York early this year, it for the record spoke only benignly of EVs, and made a point of not stepping on toes, even if since someone at the company did again.
And as a result, EV fans have been saying things like Toyota is “painting itself into a corner” with its outspoken support for FCVs, and sidestepping EVs.
It has become a bit of a “zero sum game,” an either/or proposition in the minds of some. Perhaps most outspoken for the notion that the time of the EV is now have been Tesla and Nissan, with other automakers following in development of electric cars.
What’s more, California’s Air Resources Board award nine Zero Emissions Vehicle credits to an FCV, while even EVs like Tesla’s Model S get four.
You can see how that’s a regulatory carrot on a stick for Toyota, Hyundai, Daimler, Honda, and we’ll see who’s next. And yes, natural gas will be used for now as the feed stock to make hydrogen, so that keeps that fossil fuel in business as well.
All this and many more details that could make for a long debate are true enough, but the jury is out on Toyota’s ultimate game.
Toyota has said it has not ruled out EVs forever into perpetuity. That’s merely its position now. If it or another company devises a better battery, it could rethink EVs later this decade or next decade.
It may have alienated some of the faithful in the mean time, but this is where things are.
So, unknown is how this will shake out in the long run. Memories may be long in the public for the company that gave the world the Prius and now says “no one is coming to our door asking us to build a new electric car.”
Or, as has happened before, people may forget about it if later Toyota comes up with a new whiz-bang EV and it meets peoples’ needs, wants, and desires – when ever that may be.