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Is Toyota Too Late to the Electric Car Revolution?

When it comes to electric cars, a lot of legacy automobile manufacturers have really been dragging their feet with getting on board.  However, it looks like Toyota may finally be coming around, albeit a bit slowly.  Today Toyota announced its plans to accelerate its electric vehicle schedule by five years.

Greater Demand For Electric Cars

With the growing global demand for electric cars, Toyota’s longstanding aversion to battery-powered vehicles is being forced to change.  The exponential expansion of this market means that Toyota will need to adapt to survive, and it is encouraging to see it trying to, at least a little. 

Part of the reason for this attitude likely comes from profits: electric cars are expensive to produce, and manufacturers are not making as much money on the sale of an electric car as they would on a gas-powered car.  But those costs have been coming down over the past decade, and with time profits may become more comparable.

For now, Toyota wants to have half of its global sales to be electrified in some way by 2025– five years ahead of previously announced plans.

Toyota Electric Car Plans Focused On Hybrids

Stubbornness is hard to grow out of, however, and it seems like Toyota is still holding on to some of it.  While they are planning on accelerating their plans to produce and sell electric vehicles, they are determined to focus heavily on hybrids rather than all-electric cars.

During their recent press conference, Toyota Executive Vice President Shigeki Terashi touched on the issue.  “We haven’t changed our policy towards battery EVs. We are not shifting our focus to prioritize battery EVs, nor are we abandoning our FCV (fuel cell vehicle) strategy.”

They seem to firmly believe that hybrids are a better alternative to all-electric cars, thanks in part to their existing success in that area.  Toyota’s Prius hit the world market almost twenty years ago as the first mass-market “green car”, and since then Toyota has enjoyed leading the pack in terms of hybrid and FCV technology, mostly in the form of hydrogen fuel cells.  In fact, it currently sells more than 80% of all hybrid vehicles worldwide.

For now, Toyota seems content to rest on its laurels rather than invest in new technology.

Too Little, Too Late? 

Toyota fully embraces the current benefits of hybrid vehicles: they have a gasoline fuel efficiency almost twice that of regular gasoline-powered cars, lower production costs, and freedom from sparse electric car charging networks.  It does not see a reason to deviate from this business model right now.   

But dependence on non-renewable fuels, dropping manufacturing costs, and growing charging infrastructure may soon make those ‘benefits’ moot.  If Toyota does not come on board with the likelihood that the future lies in all-electric cars, they may find themselves left in the dust. 

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