Toyota Chairman Skeptically Discusses Hurdles To Mass EV Adoption

Toyota’s chairman is taking a more cautious and gradual approach to broad consumer adoption of electric vehicles than several of its competitors.

In an interview with CNBC, Takeshi Uchiyamada outlined technology barriers needing to be crossed before mass adoption becomes the norm.

The Japanese automaker, with its specialized EV division that started up in late 2016, is one among many global automakers seeing battery electric vehicles as the leading electrified vehicle technology of the next decade. But the issues must be addressed.

“I must say up front that we’re not against electric vehicles,” Uchiyamada said. “But in order for electric vehicles to cover long distances, they currently need to be loaded with a lot of batteries that take a considerable amount of time to charge. There’s also the issue of battery life.”

With laws and regulations falling in place in markets such as China and the U.S., automakers will have “no choice but to roll out electric vehicles or risk going out of business,” he said.

Uchiyamada said he and other Toyota executives are skeptical that adoption of pure EVs will come at a fast rate. Consumers have a lot of questions over convenience of the technology.

Considered to be the “father of the Prius,” Uchiyamada said his company learned over the years much about the consumer experience in owning hybrid vehicles. The hybrid technology didn’t dramatically change the driver’s experience he said. It enhanced the consumer’s experience by reducing trips to the gas station.

Mirai FCV – the first production vehicle for Toyota’s preferred long-term electrification strategy.

The company realized that electrification of vehicles would be inevitable long term. Whatever shape it would take, its hybrid system was already going in the right direction as a business model for Toyota to follow. Its battery, motor, software, and semiconductors could accommodate the future, he said.

Toyota’s experience bringing the Mirai hydrogen fuel cell vehicle to market in Japan, U.S., and Europe is also expected to shape future decisions on bringing a new technology from design to production.

He does see Toyota having a competitive advantage by adding solid-state batteries to its next generation of EVs. Uchiyamada couldn’t say when development of these vehicles would be ready, but he expects EV sales to grow rapidly once the technology challenges are overcome.

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What are these challenges? The chairman said another two or three technological breakthroughs beyond the battery need to be resolved, but he didn’t offer details on them during the interview.

Some form of electrification will be inevitable on the global market, he said, and Toyota is hard at work on developing durable, long-range batteries.


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