The Toyota Prius was nothing short of revolutionary when it was first released over two decades ago. Combining the promise of a smaller carbon footprint with a reduced gas bill, the Prius immediately became the vehicle of choice for environmentalists and cheapskates alike. Toyota can and should be praised for its hybrid program and the contributions that the program has made to a greener future. Still, those of us interested in electric vehicle (EV) technology have to wonder: why doesn’t Toyota offer and all-electric version of the Prius or any of its other models?
According to Gerald Killman, Vice President of Research and Development for Toyota in European Markets, the company decided that it would be able to sell many more hybrid vehicles than it could EVs, and this would ultimately be better for the environment. In March of this year, Killmann told Road and Track Magazine that the company has the ability to produce enough vehicles for either 28,000 EVs or 1.5 million hybrid cars per year. The big brains at Toyota further deduced that by doing so, they could reduce carbon emissions by 1/3 more than if they sold the smaller amount of EVs. Killmann also noted that Hybrid vehicles were more practical (due to issues with range and charging in EVs) and could be offered at more affordable prices. Toyota is one of the few car companies that does not use lithium-ion batteries in their electric tech, instead opting for a nickel-metal hydride battery (NiMH). These batteries are cheaper to produce than their lithium-ion counterparts and appear to be just about as reliable. Toyota also offers the Mirai, the world’s first hydrogen fuel cell vehicle to be placed on the market.
On the surface, this strategy makes perfect sense. By building and selling more hybrids, Toyota can please both shareholders and pesky environmentalists who demand that the company go kicking and screaming into the future. Environmentally-conscious Prius owners can sleep well at night knowing that their cars are better for the planet than regular gas guzzlers, and they don’t have to stress about charging an all-electric battery.
The problem is not in the present but the future and Toyota knows it. Perhaps reluctantly, Toyota recently decided to move up production of its EV line by FIVE YEARS, from 2025 to 2020. In other words, Toyota seems to have massively underestimated how rapid the growth in the EV market would be. Still, Toyota will not abandon their highly successful hybrid line during this time. According to Shigeki Terashi, Toyota’s Executive Vice President: “We haven’t changed our policy towards battery EVs. We are not shifting our focus to prioritize battery EVs, nor are we abandoning our FCV strategy.”
What do our readers think? Can Toyota be forgiven for their reluctance to enter the EV market? Will their strategy of continued reliance on their hybrid fleet prove successful? How will their new line of EVs fare against rivals? We would love to hear from you in the comments section below.