While other automakers are developing plug-in electric vehicles, Toyota made it clear on Wednesday they are doubling down on hybrid vehicles and planning to show a fuel cell concept car in November. That Toyota’s press release mentioned only one plug-in electric vehicle, the Toyota Plug-in Prius, raises doubts over the long-term prospects of Toyota’s other plug-in electric vehicle, the Gen2 Toyota RAV4 EV.
Toyota has clearly had a huge success with hybrid vehicles beginning with the Toyota Prius introduced nearly 15 years ago. On Wednesday, Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) Managing Officer Satoshi Ogiso outlined a new era of hybrid vehicle technology with the next-generation Prius and plans to, between now and the end of 2015, Toyota plans to introduce 15 new or redesigned hybrid vehicles globally.
The improved hybrid drive trains will deliver significantly improved fuel economy in a more compact package that is lighter in weight and lower in cost, said Toyota.
Some details behind that goal are these claims: The next generation Prius will have higher energy density, or the kilowatt-hours capacity per kilogram of weight. Toyota has stepped up research into not just nickel-metal-hydride, but lithium ion, as well as solid state and lithium air batteries. The next generation Prius will feature an electric motor that produces more energy in a smaller/lighter unit, in other words they have developed a motor with higher power density than the current motor. The thermal efficiency of the gas engine will increase from the current 38.5 percent to beyond 40 percent, which will be a world record.
The Toyota New Global Architecture will feature a lower center of gravity and increased structural rigidity, which will contribute to greatly improved driving dynamics. The next generation Prius will also have better aerodynamics.
The only plug-in electric vehicle mentioned in the press release, the Plug-in Prius, is being developed in parallel with the non-plug-in Prius. It should have a longer electric driving range, and Toyota is working on a wireless charging system that should undergo verification testing during 2014.
Finally, Toyota is working on their first commercial fuel cell vehicle. It is a mid-sized four-door sedan, and the concept car version will be unveiled in November at the Tokyo Auto Show. The North American debut will come in January 2014, not at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, but at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Because a fuel cell vehicle is also an electric vehicle (that you cannot plug in), Toyota will be able to reuse electric drive train components
These plans, as described, do not include any significant effort in plug-in electric vehicles. The Gen2 RAV4 EV is not mentioned at all, and the Plug-in Prius is barely mentioned. Instead their fuel cell vehicle is described as the future primary element of Toyota’s mobility strategy.
Toyota’s overall strategy is to keep the cost premium over pure gasoline vehicles low, while keeping the convenience high. But what that means is Toyota’s customers are still 100% beholden to gasoline.