By on June 9, 2019

Following announcements that Toyota would be working on a shared electric vehicle platform with Subaru, as well as a jointly developed crossover, the brand conducted a press conference on Friday regarding its decision to “popularize BEVs.” While the announcement didn’t deal with the specifics of cutting-edge tech, auxiliary business opportunities, or even a total shift toward battery electric vehicles, it did represent a major commitment from a manufacturer that’s notoriously cautious in its decision making.

Opening the conference, Executive Vice President Shigeki Terashi focused largely on the challenges of electrification. Terashi said Toyota’s intent has always been to support “social progress” and curb CO2 emissions while acknowledging that it had only made formal commitments to electrification within the last couple of years. However, he showed that the automaker has been busy within that time, and had several initiatives in the works aimed at repositioning Toyota as a mobility brand, by outlining the company’s extremely complex EV strategy.

Buckle up, because there is a lot to this — including some new cars. 

Starting with the Chinese launch of the Toyota C-HR/IZOA BEV in 2020, Toyota says it wants to deliver a batch of electrified models using its new e-TNGA platform. All told, the brand hopes to launch 10 BEV models worldwide, including six global vehicles, using the architecture. China will remain the focus, with additional markets receiving most products only after the People’s Republic has been served up each of the new-energy vehicles. Though it was said that some models could be designated specifically for North America, likely through Lexus.

Toyota also said that it would be bringing in Subaru and Suzuki in on e-TNGA. As previously reported, Subaru will be co-developing a mid-sized crossover while Suzuki (and Daihatsu) have a compact car in the works. The remaining introductory BEVs include a midsize sedan, a minivan, one large crossover, and another middleweight utility. The company eventually hopes to boast fleet-wide electrification by 2025 — meaning all models would at least offer a hybrid variant. Mazda is presumed to be getting some electrified love from Toyota as well, but neither company has confirmed anything officially.

Similar to Volkswagen’s MEB platform, e-TNGA will allow for vehicles that vary largely in form and function. Front, rear, or dual motor all-wheel drive vehicles will be available. Toyota suggested that wheelbases, overhangs, battery capacity, and motor size will all be scalable — allowing the platform to cover a lot of ground in terms of product offerings. But that’s where the similarities with VW end.

What e-TNGA cannot furnish, Toyota said it would build from scratch. In addition to normal-sized cars, the company also plans to deliver a bundle of mobility vehicles concerned with short-range transportation. Among those is a small 2-seater (based on the i-Ride concept), an enclosed trike (i-Road), a motorized scooter (i-Walk), and a wheelchair. Most of these contraptions are unlikely to make it out of the Japan.

Ultimately, Toyota claims the new strategy should result in the sale of 5.5 million electric and electrified vehicles by 2025 — which is 5 years sooner than it previously suggested. However, it believes only about 1 million of those will be BEVs or hydrogen-powered cars. In order to ensure an adequate supply of batteries — something it claimed would become the biggest source of stress for EV manufacturers — the company has partnered with four additional suppliers: Japan’s GS Yuasa and Toshiba, as well as China’s BYD and CATL.

That’s in addition to existing agreements with Primearth EV and Panasonic, the latter of which is working with Toyota to develop solid-state batteries. While Friday’s press conference did not confirm any major breakthroughs regarding the technology, Toyota executives hinted that a huge announcement could be made next year. The manufacturer also wants to work with these firms in finding new ways to minimize battery degradation and explore recycling solutions.

 

Terashi said Toyota’s new interest in battery sales was partially due to there being better visibility of the market, improved energy storage, and lowered technological costs. While it still doesn’t seem to believe BEVs will replace internal-combustion vehicles any time soon, it now feels that there is a sufficient market case to be made for OEMs to get more serious about them.

Despite its continued cautiousness and an additional warning about the perceived profitability risks of zero-emission automobiles, Toyota is still making sizable moves in the electric realm. In March, Toyota Tsusho announced it had purchased a stake in Fukuta Electric & Machinery Co. The company has since been discussing evolving into one of the world’s largest suppliers of electric vehicle components and systems. It’s also at the forefront of Automotive Grade Linux, which is collaborative effort between automakers that hopes to establish a new industry standard for the operating systems of connected cars. While often downplayed, these are probably some of the most important aspects of Toyota’s overall plan but you have to pull back a bit to fully appreciate it.

Toyota is taking a realistic and varied approach to electrification without pulling too many punches. If BEVs take off, it’ll be in a good position as both a supplier and brand. If they don’t, it could still make a mint selling its proprietary tech to companies more willing to take risks in an uncertain market. Regardless, Toyota is making important commitments while simultaneously hedging its bets and telling the world that it still isn’t convinced that electric vehicles are viable business model. However, if they are, Toyota should be sitting pretty — possibly with a seat at the head of the table.

 

[Images: Toyota]

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14 Comments on “Toyota Ramps Up Electrification Timeline, Outlines Nuanced Strategy...”


  • avatar
    TimK

    Anyone know a good extension cord play listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange?

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Too many weasel words in this plan to really understand what’s going on, or to take them seriously yet.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      They’ve been filing craploads of solid-state battery patents for some time now. I know what they were saying publicly, but behind the scene, it was clear they were serious about BEVs all along from looking at the patent filings. I think they made some unexpected progress in solid state technology and decided to start making some moves.

      Here is just one of the patents – not necessarily the thing that made them get more serious. There are plenty more patents like this from them. This is just a sample:

      https://patents.google.com/patent/WO2017102011A1/en

      • 0 avatar
        TimK

        Tadiran Batteries (Israel) has been building cells with Li-S chemistries for over forty years. They have a significant patent portfolio and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Toyota make an acquisition if it moves this project forward. Safety is the nut to crack with lithium batteries. The first company to create an intrinsically-safe solid state cell, even if it’s at the same energy density as today’s Li products, will have a huge advantage.

        • 0 avatar
          SCE to AUX

          I’d suggest that the real nut(s) to crack are charging time and capacity degradation.

          Lithium ion safety/fires make headlines, but the facts don’t support the notion that they are unsafe. I’ll take my chances with a lithium ion pack vs 20 gallons of explosive gasoline, any day.

          Reducing recharge times will go a long way toward wider consumer acceptance, and reducing degradation will substantially bolster the value proposition of buying an EV. EV depreciation is directly tied to battery degradation, and that’s why most people lease non-Tesla EVs. Off lease, used EVs are dirt cheap. That is not a recipe for a robust EV market.

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            I think the range degradation has been for the most part solved with the various new electrode coatings the manufacturers have been rolling into the newest cells.

            As far as charging time goes, that’s been getting better with the new higher capacity chargers and cars that can handle them coming into the market.

            I’ve noticed something interesting on the Taycan. The prototypes have been seen with a charging port on either side of the car for convenience. One trick I’ve been using for my little EVs/Robots is to split the battery pack and charge them simultaneously and separately. I’m wondering if Porsche is thinking about doing the same thing. Instead of charging one 100 kWh pack at 350kW, you charge two 50kWh packs at 350kW at the same time effectivley giving you 700 kW charging. I think the Tesla semi is sort of doing the same thing with the prototypes. Other ways to speed up charging would involve those maxwell supercapacitors. I could have some fun with those. Fast charge the lithium to 80% and then switch to the ultracapacitors for the last 20% that could remain at full speed charge. Then drive away and either discharge the ultras first or use them to finish the final charging of the lithium after the car is underway. All kinds of ways to improve charging.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    Curious. Isn’t this the same company that said that BEVs were a dead end (or something to that effect) not too long ago?

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      Not really. Yeah, they were saying one thing, but their patent filing activity over the past few years told the real story. I think they were even leading in the number of solid-state battery patents at one point.

    • 0 avatar
      Lockstops

      Technically yes. But then there’s China. And then there are other governments and bureaucracies (like the EU) who don’t have to or don’t want to follow business realities, free market etc. but instead accept massive bribes from companies like VW to effectively game the whole market to suit their selected aggressive strategy.

      Note how Toyota isn’t saying that electric vehicles are viable outside China. Or that there is enough battery supply outside China.

      • 0 avatar
        Lockstops

        Politicians seem to love pouring other peoples’ money into dead ends, and taxing those more who don’t want to head into those dead ends.

        If a dead end is subsidised enough and the rational solution(s) are heavily taxed enough, or even simply everything else than the dead end is banned, then what do you do as a company? Do you fight the fight in the bribery arena, or keep out of that game (especially as an outsider in the EU and China) and follow the (corrupt) market reality into the dead end if that’s the only way to stay in business?

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        @Lockstops:

        “Note how Toyota isn’t saying that electric vehicles are viable outside China. Or that there is enough battery supply outside China.”

        I noticed that, too. China (albeit a big market) appears to be Toyota’s first baby steps into the BEV market. Their announcement doesn’t appear to be an “all-in” approach that is needed for the North American and European markets.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Announcements and patent filings are one thing, but I’d wait until we see a product’s specs, price, and availability before getting too excited.

  • avatar
    vvk

    The more, the merrier. Even from Toyota.


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