One Finite Planet

Toyota and EVs: An Electric Vehicles Enigma.

Current Update: July 1st, 2022

First Published:

Table of Contents

Once the darling of Hollywood in the wake of "green" image built by the Prius hybrid, Toyota has more recently prompted calls for boycotts by climate groups in response to Toyota anti-climate action and anti-EV lobbying has seen the company reach the status of no 3 climate enemy company in the world, behind only Exxon-Mobil and Chevron.

Yet, more recently Toyota has announced what appears to be a significant program to introduce electric vehicles. What is the the real story, and can Toyota remain the worlds largest producer of automobiles?

Overview.

In 2022, Toyota produces more vehicles than any automotive company, but in what many see is crazy, is ranked second behind Tesla in terms of market capitalisation, despite Tesla not even making the top 10 in terms on number of vehicles produced, shipping less than 1 million cars in 2021 to Toyotas over 10 million cars.

Yet, market capitalisation reflects analysts view of likely future value, which means despite Toyota’s current position, the company is seen as in danger of being overtaken as the market moves to EVs.

Unlike other automakers GM, Ford, VW and even Stellantis, Toyota has never, at least to my knowledge, publicly stated they will at some point overtake Tesla in selling EVs.

Yet, there are also many who believe Toyota can never be dethroned as the leader, and will sometime soon introduce ground breaking EVs that take the world by storm.

I have a page for tracking the two leading EV makers, Tesla and BYD, and the 4 legacy automakers chasing them, and this page will track industry giant, Toyota.

To EV or Not to EV?

Toyota And Electric: A Love Hate Relationship.

I have previously labelled Toyota the “anti-ev company“, and my first impression of their hydrogen car plans were that Toyota only was funding hydrogen cars to delay the move to electric cars. Looking back at the history, it is clear there was a time when battery technology was just not up to the task of enabling electric vehicles to provide a path to zero emission vehicles. However, Toyota, or at least their president Aiko Toyoda, became a victim of sunk cost bias and adopted any opportune argument to delay the adoption of electric vehicles.

Toyota Zero Emission Pioneer.

1997-2003: Rav4 EV Compliance Car .

The 1997 Rav4 EV had a 27kwh battery, and an EPA range of 95 miles or 153km. All of this sounds impressive compared to the 2010 Nissan Leaf arriving 13 years later with a range of 73 miles or 117 km from a 24kwh battery.

  • The Rav4 EV was a “compliance car” produced at a loss in very limited numbers.
  • The 1st Gen Rav4 EV was very slow, 18s 0-60mph, only achieved the range by being slow, and was very slow to recharge.
  • Toyota’s other ‘compliance‘ zero emission vehicle, a hydrogen car, had far better range, better performance, and was faster to recharge, possibly a major reason for Toyota adopting a Hybrid and Hydrogen strategy.

1999-2021: Hybrid And Hydrogen Strategy.

The Toyota Prius, launched in 1997 in Japan by 2001 in the US and other international markets, gave Toyota a positive reputation with environmentalists, and those who wanted to be seen as environmentally responsible.

Ever since, Toyota has focused on hybrids for today, and hydrogen for “one day” as the company plan. Even plug-in hybrids have not been endorse by Toyota with “charge by gasoline” hybrids, that Toyota cleverly/cynically markets as “self charging hybrids”.

By aournd 2017, the luste from the Prius had stated to wane as it became clear in in tru green credential, Totoay was lagging bheind.

Toyota Electric History: EV Pioneer To Laggard, And Back?

However, there are other questions on Toyota’s ‘green’ history, and despite the seemingly environmentally friendly although complicated and expensive for the performance Prius, Toyota has been the only brand in the US to increase average fuel consumption of its fleet.

Despite the association of Toyota and the Toyota Prius hybrid with its history of having been championed as environmentally friendly, Toyota has a chequered history with electrification that includes:

It goes, on, and I could add more, but hopefully this is enough he convey the point.

Toyota: No3 Worldwide In Companies Negatively Influencing Climate Action.

Toyota Motor has campaigned against proposed regulations globally to phase out internal combustion engines in favor of electric vehicles in 2020-21 and ranks 3rd on InfluenceMap’s list of global companies most negatively influencing Paris-aligned climate policy. It is joined by BMW (18th), Daimler (24th) and Hyundai (25th) from the automotive sector, which as a group is highly negative on stringent climate regulation on the automotive sector.

The 50 Most Influential Companies and Industry Associations Blocking Climate Policy Action Globally

Only the largest American Oil companies block Toyota from 1st place. Toyota, currently the largest, and richest, manufacturer of internal combustion vehicles, sees electric vehicles as a significant threat. While hybrids increase car complexity and cost, battery electric vehicles remove the most complex parts of a car, the internal combustion engine, gear box and cooling systems. While you might think governments would not force consumers to buy more expensive cars as EV prices inevitably fall, Toyota in Japan has a government that already forces consumers to keep buying new cars in a planned obsolesce program to support the automobile industry.

USA EPA Report for 2012-2017. All leading companies, with the sole exception of Toyota, improved economy & decreased emissions.
Can Toyota adjust their 100 year thinking.

Toyota is so concerned about the job loses in Japan from the move to electric vehicles that it has even formed “team Japan” to help keep the combustion engine alive. See “Toyota: The Anti-Electric Vehicle Company” for more, but Toyota is calling out that progress is bad for corporate profits and lowering prices is bad for economic activity. EVs can be built with 1/3 of the labour hours of building an ICE vehicle or hybrid, and Toyota argues that would be disaster for jobs in Japan.

The Hybrid Addiction.

Labour can be cut from 30 hours building cars with processes designed around internal combustion engines, to 10 hours for an EV. Toyota is master of building hybrids, which have the complexity of both powertrains one vehicle, Is any wonder why Toyota spent so many dollars advocating hybrids as a greener solution than moving asway from fuels?

From December 2021: An Electric Epiphany?

Then articles started to appear suggesting Toyota was trying to get serious about electric cars.

“Two million is a huge number and now we’re saying 3.5 million as a baseline, but people will still say [it’s only] 3.5 million out of 10 million annually.”

Toyota CEO: December 2021.

So the latest prediction is 3.5 million cars per year by 2030. Critics suggest that means Toyota is sill planning to sell 6.5 million non-ev cars, and that will lead ot big losses.

While ramping up production does take years, as does fully converting factories and securing battery supplies, at this time 2030 is 8 years away and there is time to further increase that target. Of course, given all the competition, where something has to give as far as market share, if is very likely that Totyota could drop back to 5 million cars per year annually from the current 10 million per year, if it fails to pull a rabbit out of its hat.

It has been suggested Toyota has ground breaking solid state batteries, just waiting in the wings to be released any time from 2022through to 2025, that revolutionise the industry. However, many reports say these batteries will first exist in hybrids, which remain Toyota’s favourite solution.

Toyota is one of the most difficult car makes to predict how they will handle the transition. Currently Toyota claim production reduction is due to semi-conductor shortages, but with several key markets such as Europe and China already around 25% EVs, it is hard to see how Toyota, with no current EV products, can avoid a drop in sales.

I suspect Toyota will lose more than 50% of their current volumes by 2030, and perhaps little more than the projected 3.5 million cars will need to be produced by 2030.

Toyota EVs: Finally.

BZ4x: 2022.

The first real, ground up EV from Toyota, released in 2022, and created in collaboration with Subaru.

Despite being recalled because the wheels literally fell off, reviews are mixed between:

One key point. The “not bad” tests seemed to not include testing charging. They still rate the cars stated charging speed as low, but seem to miss how far below the 100kW stated charging capability people who charged the car discovered. On the spec, the charge should charge faster then a Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Bolt or even BYD Atto 3. On tests so far, it is not even close to those cars. Note the slowest charging speeds apply to a battery not installed on European cars. But with the battery in the AWD model in the US, a full charge takes hours even on a rapid charger. Maybe 4hrs on 350kW charger, but 7hrs one a 50kW charger.

While there are other niggles, the main problem is slow rapid DC charging, which is reported to take one hour to 80%. Out of spec reviews for this car the slowest charging car he had ever tested by a very large margin. Despite a peak rate of charge stated as 100kW, out of spec found while charging from empty started ok, by 40%, the rate on a xxkW charger had dropped to less than 50kW. and

No one is “blown away” and clearly this vehicle is not going to really shake up the car market, but if Toyota decide to try, and especially if software can fix the charging, they could sell in real numbers. While at this time it is too early to say what level of sales Toyota is even targeting, I will update once there is data.

BZ3: 2023.

In fact the BZ3 may even be released December 2022, but realistically, it will reach markets in 2023. This time the car will basically be a BYD under the skin. Outsourcing to the worlds largest maker of vehicles with a power point (as of mid 2022) can’t hurt. More information here.

Updates.

  • 2022, July: This page was given a major overhaul
  • more info on the BZ cars to be added