Are Toyota's Latest EV Moves For Real?

We’d love to believe Toyota is being sincere

In a comprehensive post by InsideEVs own Mark Kane, we reported last week that Toyota announced that they were pushing up their electification plans by 5 years, and now expect to have “electrified’ versions of all of their offerings by 2025. 

Toyota EV news

That news followed a report that Toyota and Subaru had partnered to co-develop a new dedicated all-electric platform for midsize and large passenger vehicles for both brands. Toyota owns a 16% stake in Subaru, which is a very small auto manufacturer compared to some of the larger companies like Toyota, General Motors or Volkswagen. That might help explain why the largest automaker in the world decided to co-develop a platform with another company, but not entirely.

With the resources that Toyota has, they don’t need help from anyone to develop an electric platform, or anything else for that matter. So why are they, then? Perhaps the answer is more cynical. 

Toyota has been one of the most anti-EV of all the large auto manufacturers. Whenever I’ve spoken with a Toyota rep at an auto show, they’ve always praised they hybrid technology, and offered that hybrids will be their bridge to hydrogen fuel cells, and that they will be basically leap-frogging BEVs entirely. 

Maybe that’s still their strategy. Perhaps they realize HFC technology is still 10 to 15 years from being viable for mass production because of the infrastructure (or lack of it) and they’re hedging their bets by sharing the expense of developing their BEV platforms with Subaru.

A BEV-dedicated platform Toyota and Subaru will jointly develop

Could this latest splash of EV-news from Toyota be nothing more than lip-service as they continue to slow-walk EVs, and concentrate on expanding “electrified” hybrids. Toyota & Lexus currently account for about 80% of the worldwide hybrid sales, so hybrids are clearly their bread & butter. 

I’d love to believe that Toyota has seen the light, but after so many years of hearing them denigrate electric vehicles, it’s going to take a lot more than a few drawings of some future concept vehicles to convince me they’ve turned a corner. 

Toyota and Lexus continue to push the “self charging hybrid” deception in their marketing around the world, and often use it to scare people from considering electric vehicles. Lexus even resorted to photoshopping out the fuel flap of an BMW i3 REx in an ad to illustrate how inconvenient it would be to have to charge an EV on a road trip. 

Toyota’s sole plug in vehicle, the Prius Prime is currently the best selling plug in hybrid in the US. It’s actually second only to the Tesla Model 3 in total plug-in vehicle sales for 2019. So Toyota can make plug-ins that sell. It’s just that so far, they really don’t seem to have had the appetite to. 

At this year’s New York Auto Show, the Toyota display was all about the Mirai, complete with cutaway’s of the Mirai and all kinds of information about how hydrogen is safe, non-toxic and emission-free. There was nothing about battery electric vehicles, or how Toyota plans to electrify their entire brand.

Maybe I’m just a “Doubting Thomas” on this topic, but personally I’m going need a little more from Toyota to believe they’ve turned a corner, and are finally taking battery electric vehicles seriously. In the video above, I discuss Toyota’s latest announcements on my weekly spot on E For Electric with Alex Guberman. So, what do you think? Am I being too hard on Toyota? Let us know in the comments.

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