Wheels24

Toyota scraps EV for 21 hybrids

2012-09-25 12:15

TOKYO, Japan - Toyota has scrapped plans for widespread sales of a new all-electric minicar, admitting it had misread the market and the ability of still-emerging battery technology to meet buyers' demands.

Toyota had already taken a more conservative view of the market for battery cars than rivals General Motors and Nissan. It said it would only sell about 100 battery eQ vehicles in the US and Japan in an extremely limited release.

'MANY DIFFICULTIES'

The automaker had announced plans to sell several thousand of the vehicles per year when it unveiled the eQ as an pure-electric variant of its iQ minicar in 2010.

Takeshi Uchiyamada, Toyota's vice-chairman and the engineer who oversees vehicle development, told reporters: "Two years later, there are many difficulties."

By dropping plans for a second electric vehicle in its line-up, Toyota cast more doubt on an alternative to the combustion engine that has been both lauded for its oil-saving potential and criticised for its heavy reliance on government subsidies in key markets such as the US.

"The current capabilities of electric vehicles do not meet society's needs, whether it may be the distance the cars can run, or the costs, or how it takes a long time to charge," said, Uchiyamada, who led Toyota's development of the Prius hybrid in the 1990's.

Toyota said it was putting its emphasis on that technology, an area in which it is the established leader. Toyota said on Monday (Sept 24, 2012) it expected to have 21 hybrid petrol-electric models like the Prius in its line-up by 2015. Of that total, 14 would be all-new, the automaker said.

FAR FROM TARGET

Toyota has previously said that it expects to have a hybrid variant available for every vehicle it sells. In a petrol-electric hybrid like the Prius, a battery captures energy from the brakes to provide a supplement to the combustion engine, boosting overall mileage, particularly in stop-and-go city traffic.

Pure electric vehicles, like the Nissan Leaf, carry only lithium-ion batteries. Consumer demand for the vehicles has been capped by their limited range and the relatively high cost of the powerful batteries they require.

The decision to drop plans for more extensive rollout of its eQ city car leaves Toyota with just a single pure EV in its line-up. The automaker will launch an all-electric RAV4 model in the United States that was jointly developed with Tesla.

Toyota is also far from its plug-in hybrid sales target. The automaker planned to sell between 35 000 and 40 000 Prius plug-in hybrids in 2012 in Japan. So far it has sold only 8400, or about 20% of its target.

The plug-in Prius is designed with a battery that can be charged for just over 20 km of battery-powered driving. After that, the vehicle behaves like a more traditional hybrid and relies on its gas engine for extended range.

"We believe that there is social demand for the plug-in hybrid, but our efforts to let the customers know what it is have not been enough," Uchiyamada said.

Reuters