Toyota smells the coffee, wants a piece of Tesla’s market share but it’s too late

tesla toyota
Tesla’s Elon Musk and Toyota’s Akio Toyoda shaking hands in Palo Alto, CA cir. 2010. [Credit: Associated Press]

A new report coming out of the Nikkei, announced that Toyota is planning to enter the battery electric vehicle (BEV) business with development of  its own long range vehicle slated for mass production in 2020.

News that the world’s largest automaker has plans to produce a 300 km (186 mile) BEV could be a sign that the company shifted development focus away from its fuel-cell vehicles, in particular its hydrogen powered Mirai, in order to compete with Tesla and GM within the growing EV space.

According to the Nikkei Asian Review via Autoblog, Toyota’s plan to mass produce its first all electric vehicle by 2020 coincides with timing for the next 2020 Olympics to be held in Tokyo. Toyota is said to be a major sponsor of the Olympics so it would come as no surprise that the company will take stage and use the opportunity to unveil a new line of products.

The Nikkei reports that Toyota plans to “bolster development of batteries” through the company’s battery material research department but also acquire batteries from outside sources in order to keep costs of its future EV competitive. This is in sharp contrast to the Japanese automaker’s previous strong belief that EVs would never become mainstream due to the high cost of batteries and limited driving range.

In a statement issued to Autoblog, Toyota states that any potential development in its BEV will happen in parallel with fuel-cell vehicles:

“We would like to refrain from commenting on such details, such as the schedule of development and production since it relates to our future product plan.

Toyota has made efforts in every direction on various powertrains, including electric vehicles (EVs), when it comes to the development of environmentally friendly vehicles. Toyota will continue to improve on the development of eco-cars, ranging from hybrids (HVs) and plug-in hybrids (PHVs), to electric and fuel-cell vehicles (FCVs), based on the advantages and capabilities of each powertrain.

We believe that environmentally friendly vehicles can only help to improve the environment if they become available to a large number of customers, and in relation to this, Toyota will consider introducing EVs to the market.

We will consider the roll-out of EVs alongside Toyota’s FCV lineup, which are both zero emission vehicles, based on the advantages and capabilities of each, as well as the market conditions of each region/country, as we continue to closely monitor the corresponding situations.”

Toyota has finally seen the writing on the wall though it may be too late. With Tesla having already received 373,000 deposits on its affordable mass market Model 3, planned to go into production next year, and GM going to market with its new 2017 Chevrolet Bolt with an EPA-rated 238 miles of range, Toyota clearly has a lot of catching up to do, especially if it intends to be competitive within the electric vehicle space. Not to mention, Tesla has a significant advantage over other automakers because of its existing global network of  Supercharger stations.


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