By on November 17, 2016

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That small-volume, regional roll-out of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles? Yeah, it’s just not doing it for Toyota. The automaker has let development of a fully-electric electric vehicle slide, and now it’s time to play catch-up.

But, rather than saddle the development of a non-hydrogen, non-hybrid green vehicle with the weight of a huge corporate bureaucracy, Toyota has chosen a different route in getting that all-important model to market.

A company within a company. At the table: four people with a mandate to deliver, and the sooner, the better. Call them Toyota’s A-Team. (E-Team?)

Toyota announced an in-house venture company today, run by an individual from each Toyota Group company. That includes Toyota Industries Corporation, Aisin Seiki Co., Ltd., Denso Corporation and TMC.

Describing it is a “virtual organization,” the automaker claims the four members will operate independently from those organizations. The group, company, organization — call it what you want — officially gets to work in December.

According to Toyota, the venture company’s “small organizational structure is meant to enable it to implement unconventional work processes, leading to accelerated project progress and, thus, fast-to-market products.”

The powers that be at the automaker admitted the company hadn’t covered all of its bases. Sure, the Prius hasn’t been ignored (though buyers aren’t giving it the love they once did), and there’s a plug-in Prime variant on the way, but the company’s strong focus on fuel-cell vehicles served to momentarily take its eye off the ball. For the record, the company stands by its pro-fuel cell stance, calling it the best all-around technology for the future.

However, all those pesky other companies and their EVs (existing or pending) tipped Toyota’s hand. It’s the government’s fault, too.

The automaker claims that “differing energy and infrastructure issues around the world and the rapid strengthening of regulations aimed at increasing the use of zero-emission vehicles have heightened the need for product lineups that can respond to various situations.”

What products can the world’s supposedly EV-hungry buyers expect? Toyota hasn’t said, though Japan’s Nikkei newspaper claims the company wants a vehicle with at least 186 miles of range by 2020. Even if the goal come to pass, expect a pack of Toyota’s competitors to cross the finish line first.

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18 Comments on “Toyota Needs a Certain Model in a Hurry, so Four Guys Are On It...”


  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I wonder if they’re going small in order to provide plausible deniability if their efforts fail. These guys might be on some sort of engineering death march.

    Toyota ought to be aiming for 400 km (248 mi) rather than 300 km (186 mi) range by 2020.

    • 0 avatar
      Asdf

      400 km is a bit modest, considering that’s not even a challenge for most ICE-powered cars today. Toyota needs to offer an EV that at the very least has range parity with a petrol car, and the charging time has to be 5 minutes or less. Otherwise there’s no point in even bringing the EV to market.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        Toyota will continue to sell petrol cars for road trippers. EVs’ sweet spot is short hop and urban / suburban. Hauling around 1000lbs of dead weight batteries on on every single 60 mile day of the year, just for bragging rights, isn’t really the most “environmentally sensible” use of resources.

        • 0 avatar
          Carlson Fan

          “EVs’ sweet spot is short hop and urban / suburban. Hauling around 1000lbs of dead weight batteries on on every single 60 mile day of the year, just for bragging rights, isn’t really the most “environmentally sensible” use of resources.”

          BINGO! Those short trips is where an EV destroys any ICE vehicle when it comes to effciency. And for most that’s 95%+ of the trips they make. I drive my Gen 1 Volt every day and even with it’s limited EV range compared to what you get with a full on EV, I rarely ever have the ICE kick on because I’ve burned through the battery. 20 gallons of gas to go over 9K miles so far. Plus it drives way better than any ICE vehicle & it’s more fun to drive too.

          • 0 avatar
            RHD

            So how about an electric car with an additional snap-in battery for longer trips, say, 100 extra miles of range for each additional battery?
            If you’re going cross country alone, you could fill the car with additional range extenders. For around-town driving, just use the small, lightweight basic battery with 100 or even less range, and much less weight.
            An electric car with maximum range as one of its primary characteristics could be built around the maximum battery content, with form following function. Imagine a minivan with the entire floor paved with lithium ion (or whatever) battery packs. Then you could fill the cargo space with hundreds of pounds of additional batteries and drive from one end of Texas to the other.

    • 0 avatar
      Stevo

      You are the EV owner so I ask honestly, why push range so hard? I don’t own one, but am considering one for an additional household vehicle. Once the range is near 200 miles I can’t think of how that wouldn’t work for nearly all my needs. More battery would just add cost I don’t want to have to pay for. If I am road tripping then I take our family van or another vehicle. I would prefer manufacturers have different range options to cater to different needs (similar to engine options). I’ll take more storage and less range.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        I *was* an EV owner; now I’m just waiting. I’m only suggesting the longer range because the market is marching in that direction. Most people can do with much less on a daily basis.

        One advantage of more range, however, is technical. More range means less deep cycling of the battery during normal use, which is harmful to its long-term capacity. Nissan Leafs usually suffer more degradation than Teslas for this reason.

        • 0 avatar
          mcs

          I currently own an EV and would never see a public charger with a 200-mile range EV. That’s based on just a little over 39,000 miles of EV ownership. I’m a high mileage driver, about 20k per year, and have had no problem with 100-mile range.

          In fact today, I made a 130 mile trip with only 14-minutes at a 50Kw charging station for a little extra range padding. That was how long it took for me to get from the charging station to the mall bathroom and back again.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Toyota really dropped the ball here. They dismissed electrification, called hybrids the bridge to fuel cells.

    in a bizarre twist OPEC lost control of the oil markets, non-OPEC nations turned up production, the US fracced its way to the largest oil producing nation in the world (with over 3K wellheads awaiting to go online – it will take years to go through it) sending gas prices plummeting.

    Fuel cells won’t be the future for decades to come, and with the Prius getting the Aztek treatment, what a shock, sales are in free fall. Customers want CUVs/SUVs or things that remotely look like CUVs/SUVs even if they have zero offraod capability.

    Toyota has a great offering in that space with the RAV-4 and the Highlander – but their lack of electrification, and not keeping up a Tesla relationship now has the company seriously behind a long list of competitors. Honda is also woefully behind here, along with FCA.

    • 0 avatar
      Asdf

      Well, the EVs currently available are pathetic jokes that ought to be the laughing stock of the car market, so the only thing Toyota is missing is a Toyota-branded EV that car buyers could have laughed at. Not such a terrible fate, is it…

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        A financially significant minority, which seems to be growing, seem to feel differently. It’s hard to really tell, given the West’s late stage decay from a market economy to a top down planned one, but there are may indicators EVs add value for some people. Perhaps enough people to underwrite their continued viability.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        “…pathetic jokes that ought to be the laughing stock of the car market”

        To you, certainly, but not to others.

        • 0 avatar
          mcs

          “…pathetic jokes that ought to be the laughing stock of the car market”

          So, I’m traveling around 20k miles a year in
          an EV that now has 39k miles on the clock. Where’s the problem? It’s doing everything that most ICE cars do. It’s a work-horse soaking up the miles on long daily drives. It handles the daily grind while it’s Italian made carbon fiber garage mate sits at home.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      Yup. I’ve said it before, hydrogen fuel cells have been, is, and will always be… the future. :)

      The cynic in me suspects Toyota’s vigorous pursuit of FCVs was to plant some FUD on EVs, This would buy them some time to play catch up. I give them credit now for recognizing their miss and moving forward.

  • avatar
    Von

    They already have most of the component technologies and supplier relationships (batteries, battery management, motors, vehicle platforms, etc), how hard is it really to engineer them together to make an EV with long range? Unless they are going for something more radical, that is, not just a grocery getter that can occasionally take the family on a somewhat long distance vacation. But I can’t imagine them doing something else, maybe a CUV if they are feeling adventurous.

  • avatar
    NoDoors

    Oil prices haven’t helped spike interest in the Prius, but I can attest to the fact that the styling change has not helped at all.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I am not really seeing what all the fuss for range is about. Regardless of how much range you have, you’re ultimately limited by charging stations. My commute is ~80 miles a day total, and my motorcycle gets about 140 to a tank comfortably. If I had something where I could just charge overnight and get ~100-120 miles of range and not have to drive a penalty box like a Leaf I’d consider it.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      I didn’t find the Leaf to be a penalty box, but maybe my standards are low. At 6’6″, it fit me well. Granted, it’s goofy-looking.

      The newest ones have a claimed 107 miles of range, but I wouldn’t believe that would hold up in real-world driving in the winter after a few years, and maybe not even new.

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