Toyota Boss: Hybrids and Fuel Cells Are Future; EVs Are Not

Toyota Motor Europe CEO Didier Leroy this week reiterated the message emanating from the top that plug-in hybrids make more sense than pure electric, and hydrogen fuel cells will prove even more promising not long from now.

This word came from Paris Motor Show and follows a talk given in Japan by the “father of the Prius,” Takeshi Uchiyamada, that battery powered cars starting with Toyota’s tiny iQ EV have too many downsides to be worthwhile.

“We have seen that customers are not yet willing to compromise on range and they don’t like the time needed to re-charge the batteries,” said Leroy. “So even if we are ready with our production version of the iQ EV we think a plug-in hybrid solution offers a better way than pure
electric for most customers needs.”

Toyota is nonetheless showing the iQ EV at Paris having gone to so much trouble as to build it only to sideline it, but it is also showing its growing bread-and-butter Hybrid Synergy line, and talking up vehicles like the pending FCV-R hydrogen fuel cell concept unveiled last year in Tokyo.

While he said EVs are “full of uncertainty,” fuel cell vehicles were portrayed as “the ultimate eco car.”

“Our fuel cell car will emit no harmful emissions at all and will have a driving range of around 700 kms (435 miles).”

It’s not as though Toyota cannot see what Nissan is doing with its Leaf, it’s more that it does not want to sign onto growing a small effort it believes will be supplanted by fuel cells in a few years anyway.

In the meantime, Toyota knows its hybrids are top sellers, believes 10-15 miles electric range offered by its plug-in Prius is “the best of both worlds” and enough for 70 percent of Europeans.

Leroy said Toyota is content to keep majoring on these kinds of transportation solutions, and let the EV market be developed by others.

“We believe it is much better to sell larger numbers of accessible low emission cars than very few with zero emissions,” Leroy said.


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  • Van

    It is going to be interesting when the Ford Energi models become widely available. If their sales eclipses the PHV, then all this misdirection will look as foolish as fool cells. All we need is a better battery. Pretty simple really. Burn no gas most days, and burn very little gas on long (longer than 35 miles) trips.

    Toyota has no answer as to why the Volt concept is not the way forward.

  • Tprc

    >>>All we need is a better battery.

    Easier said than done.

    An important factor is that the average new car price is about S26,000(US). I couldn’t find a good source for price distribution, but I bet the number of cars sold drops rapidly once over $35,000. The new EVs are still way over the average, while the hybrids are right in the thick of it. If you want to get a lot of efficient cars out there now, hybrid is the way to go.

  • antoine

    Toyota are not in the Ev game and they just want to convince people that hybrid are the way to go. But how can hybrid can be the future when we are running out of gas…

  • Van

    @Tprc, sadly you seem pretty close to correct. Recently we have read articles about the Envia 400wh/kg battery, and the Electrovaya 200Wh/kg battery. The Leaf is supposed to be coming out with a new battery too. Once these second generation car batteries become available, then hybrid plug-ins like the Volt, Energi, and PHV will drop in price and improve EV range. But unless plug-in hybrids with 25 mile plus EV range become available for less than $30,000 they will continue to sell as niche cars.

  • tgordi

    He actually endorses plugin hybrids (such as Volt). On the other hand, Toyota has known about the possibility of making Prius a plugin one since at least 8-10 years ago, when people did it themselves but has just started to produce limited ones. I am surprised they close the door on battery only cars. They could have said something like the technology is not here yet instead of dismissing it totally. Will be interesting when next Tesla models roll out. I mean, right now you can get over 250 miles per charge with supercharging station that puts another 250 miles in an hour into the car. And it is only 6 years ago Tesla started! With so many companies getting interested and new advancements in the battery types being announced almost every month, let’s hope Toyota is proven dead wrong during this decade!

  • Modern Marvel Fan

    It is all about “business”. Toyota has invested Billions in its hybrid program. With Prius selling well, why “break” the business model? Plus, it is still “hedging” its bet with all the investment in Tesla and it is taking a wait and see approach. If EV truly take off, it is can quickly turn out EVs with Tesla’s technology into its massive and advanced manufacturing plants across the globe.

    At the end of the day, it is all about “money”…

  • MrEnergyCzar

    They put all their eggs in the hybrid basket and reluctantly moved to using a lithium battery and doing a plug-in Prius…. They need to diversify with more plug-ins. Fuel cells are net-energy losers anyway….


  • Tprc

    @tgordi: I think you are correct. The battery tech will certainly improve a great deal in 10 years. And Toyota has made a large investment in Tesla($50 M US and the NUMMI plant).

    Toyota probably thinks they can sit EVs out for 5 -10 years until the battery tech improves, then leverage their Tesla investment right into the latest HSD platforms.

    Improving the battery tech includes cost, charging time, battery life. They did a awesome job managing battery tech in the Prius models. Remember all the “battery will die in 2 years and cost $15,000 to replace” crap in the early 2000’s? I don’t think Toyota is being cautious for no reason here. The Leaf battery issues are a problem for all EVs.

  • jögge

    Marvel – Antoine – think for yourself…Do you really think Toyota would not be able to build EV? they have done so for many years already!,,They are also ewarning alot alot of money!..No, try to understand TPS and you will understand that Toyota really think that PlugIn and FCEV are the future, and me too.. better to have 5 low emission cars instead of one with zero…