« Back to Home Page

Sign up for the 3p daily dispatch:

Toyota Now Wants to Be Your Electric Car Company, Too

| Wednesday December 16th, 2009 | 13 Comments

plug-in-prius-610After leading the hybrid car market with its best-selling Prius, Toyota declined, quite publicly, to join the rush into all electric and plug-in electric vehicles.

Now, it would seem the world’s largest automaker is having a change of heart. In an announcement this week, Toyota said it planned to offer “several tens of thousands” of the plug-in version of the Prius, beginning in 2012.

The difference between a plug-in hybrid and a standard hybrid is the plug-in has a larger battery pack capable of propelling the car on its own for a certain distance. In the case of the plug-in Prius, the range is 14.5 miles (23.4 km).

Toyota has made the case that barriers to adoption of electric cars, including range anxiety and the cost and weight of batteries, make wide-spread adoption unlikely. In fact, the company has, or had until recently, put its hopes for the future on hydrogen fuel cells, which have fewer technological barriers, and thus the more logical next-gen power source.

But as Kirk might say to Spock, just because it’s logical doesn’t make it right. With nearly every major car maker, plus dozens of start-ups, entering the EV or plug-in EV space, Toyota must have decided it needed to be there too — even if it secretly believes it’s all a speculative bubble.

Now that it is entering the plug-in market in a serious way, Toyota may actually do fairly well. As one comment on Greentech Media put it:

Even with a $10K battery upgrade added to the $22K base sticker price, a Prius equipped that way is far cheaper than the expected $40K price tag for the Volt. If Toyota’s first production PHEV has a lower-capacity and lower-price battery, it could still cut the ground right out from under GM’s offering by way of a much lower price point with much greater reliability. As battery density and cost improve, Toyota could totally dominate the PHEV market.

EV Makers Will Need Extended Range on their Balance Sheets

Toyota’s seeming flip-flop came, ironically, just days before the release of a study from the National Research Institute which predicts that the mass adoption of plug-in and all-electric vehicles is decades away — seemingly reinforcing Toyota’s initial caution on electric vehicles.

In fact, despite the hype (or excitement, depending on how you look at it) surrounding the Chevy Volt and other EVs, it doesn’t take the National Research Institute to figure out electric cars have a long way to go. For instance, there were more than 7 million cars sold in the US in 2008. Chevy hopes to sell 60,000 Volts when it is introduced at the end of 2010. You do the math.

The question is what might happen with technology and price. The NRI analysis is fairly conservative on both, saying costs will decline only 35 percent by 2020 and even slower thereafter. That assumption also rules out the possibility of breakthroughs in batteries design, such as zinc-air, as well as the prospect that batteries prices could shrink dramatically as more companies make EVs.


▼▼▼      13 Comments     ▼▼▼

Newsletter Signup
  • Desertstraw

    Toyota knows how to make electric cars. They did it about a decade ago with the RAV4 Electric many of which are still on the road and doing sensationally well.

    Toyota, the new GM (and that is not a compliment), does not want to make electric cars. Had GM not destroyed the EV1 and sold the patent for the NiMH battery to Chevron, which locked it away, GM would never have gone bankrupt and needed a bailout.

    As long as auto companies can keep internal combustion engines even in hybrids their big revenue stream from parts and repair will continue. Electric cars are trouble-free.

  • http://www.h2carblog.com/ Greg Blencoe

    Toyota knows very well the limitations of plug-in battery cars. Battery-only cars have driving range, fueling time, cold weather performance, and trunk/passenger space problems. And plug-in hybrids are either too expensive (e.g. Chevy Volt) or are only slightly better than a standard Prius (e.g. Toyota plug-in Prius).

    Toyota knows that the real solution to the oil crisis is hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Toyota will be selling “affordable” hydrogen fuel cell vehicles beginning around 2015. And there will be very little or no compromises with driving range, fueling time, cold weather performance, and trunk/passenger space.

    I highly recommend reading the following short article.

    “7 reasons to love Toyota hydrogen fuel cell vehicles”

    http://www.h2carblog.com/?p=16

    Greg Blencoe
    Chief Executive Officer
    Hydrogen Discoveries, Inc.
    “Hydrogen Car Revolution” blog

  • http://www.empire-solar.com/ Richard

    This is certainly progress. I hope that people do patronize green products in the future. it's all for the benefit of the planet anyway.

  • WK

    The future electric car is solar electric car, but PVC's can collect 20% of sun energy, so to collect more you need to use nano tecnoogy, less space, more electric energy collected, then just park you car in sun light and welcome the sky light garage .

  • http://www.h2carblog.com/ Greg Blencoe

    If you want to see an example of the instant range anxiety with plug-in battery cars, check out the following Consumer Reports article published yesterday that discusses the experiences of one of their writers who got the Mitsubishi i-MiEV battery-only car for a weekend.

    “Behind the wheel: Mitsubishi i-MIEV electric car”

    http://blogs.consumerreports.org/cars/2009/12/b

    Greg Blencoe
    Chief Executive Officer
    Hydrogen Discoveries, Inc.
    “Hydrogen Car Revolution” blog

  • baby crib

    I think there are limitations to cars of they are electric. I don't know if the customers would love to switch to it knowing the limitations but it is a nice move. It can help a lot to everyone.

  • toyotaparts

    Regardless of wether Toyota wants to be in the electric market they will be. I think the EV idea is a 'no-brainer' for Toyota. I'm sure they hydrogen cell technology is a much better avenue and Toyota is already on it when other manufacturers will again be behind the times… so to speak.

  • bman

    since when is hydrogen a promising energy source it take more fossil fuel to produce hydrogen then is does burning petrol straight in a normal engine, thats a fact and platinum fuels cell couple with the fact that you might not want to have large hydrogen tanks in your car if you crash making a hydrogen bomb on wheels, plus hydrogen can seep through any known material as its one of the smallest elements in the universe so storing it is a real pain, battteries are a proven tech and they are a hell of a lot cheaper, “watch who killed the electric car” its an eye opening doco

  • schedulingalgorithm

    Logical Transport are next-generation providers of integrated passenger transport solutions, covering all aspects of Vehicle and Passenger Scheduling, Routing, Vehicle Tracking and Mobile Communications – allowing multiple transport services to collaborate and schedule together.

  • schedulingalgorithm

    Logical Transport are next-generation providers of integrated passenger transport solutions, covering all aspects of Vehicle and Passenger Scheduling, Routing, Vehicle Tracking and Mobile Communications – allowing multiple transport services to collaborate and schedule together.

  • http://www.auto-owl.co.uk/ Roman

    Thanks. I congratulate you for this blog.
    I've really enjoyed. I sincerely thank you again.
    ________________________
    Contract Hire

  • GallagherEli

    I'm thinking that the more companies compete in the electric car race, the better for the rest of us, the buyers. Competition leads to lower prices, better products, more autonomy and cheaper auto insurance quote for the electric cars. I trust Toyota to come up with a highly viable model that will become popular very soon.

  • neilfabri

    Finally we are going to have the chance to drive to work without buying petrol or diesel. I can imagine myself plugging my car at night, driving ten miles to the office, parking my car and recharging the batteries for the return home. If you compare the low cost of the electricity, low car insurance quotes you can get for electric cars and the lack of air pollution with all the costs and problems that petrol engines powered cars offer, one will realize that the electrical cars are the future.