New family of electric Toyotas inspired by Concept-i will be rolled out from 2020
The Toyota Concept-i gives the first clues as to how the firm’s first bespoke fully electric vehicle will look when it goes on sale around 2020, Autocar has learned.
Toyota committed to bringing fully electric vehicles to mainstream, global production last year, having previously talked down the technology in favour of hydrogen fuel cell advances. It set up a dedicated EV development team in 2016 and earlier this year announced a technological partnership with Mazda and parts supplier Denso.
Although critics have accused it of being slow to market with EVs, Toyota chief Akio Toyoda has committed to launching electric cars “from mini-vehicles to passenger vehicles, SUVs and light trucks”. At the Tokyo motor show last week, R&D chief Kiyotaka Ise said he expected to start rolling out a family of electric cars from 2020 – a timetable in line with Volkswagen’s ambitious plans to launch a family of ID cars.
Highlighting the firm’s 20 years of leadership in hybrid technology, including more than 11 million Prius sales to date, Ise said: “We have been working with electric motors, inverters and batteries for more than 20 years. We have nothing to worry about. Our EV technology is already developed. The core technology is the same.”
Reports suggest the first in a wave of new Toyota electric cars will be a modified version of the C-HR SUV, which will be sold in the Chinese market to meet new regulations. However, a bespoke platform for a range of electric vehicles is being developed to underpin all electric models for 2020.
Ise also hinted that Toyota was optimistic of overtaking rivals in the race to put solid-state batteries, which are more efficient and potentially more cost-effective than today’s units, into production.
“I will not spoil the story by revealing our range goals or cost expectations, but we are working hard on solid-state batteries,” he said. “The plan is to have them on sale in the early 2020s and that is an objective that, we think, puts us ahead of the opposition.”
MORE THOUGHT NEEDED
In Tokyo, senior R&D engineers from several car firms warned they remain sceptical that legislators fully understand the impact of battery-electric vehicles.
One powertrain chief said the focus must shift to the whole-life impact of battery-electric cars if rule makers are to avoid provoking knock-on environmental problems, for instance.
“The focus today is on the performance and cost of the cars, but we must ask deeper questions,” he said. “Are the materials we want to use the right ones we should be using, environmentally? Are we legislating to ensure the batteries have a useful second life after cars? There is much work to do.”
The message is clear: anyone who thinks widespread uptake of battery-electric vehicles will answer all our problems should think harder.