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Toyota rolling out EV based on C-HR CUV in 2020.

EVs Easing Into Toyota’s Mostly-Hybrid Portfolio

Toyota has mapped out an electrification plan that is not overly dependent on subsidies or creative accounting. By focusing on hybrids – gasoline cars that run in part on battery power – the automaker is sticking to a formula that has generated profits for more than a decade.

TOYOTA CITY, Japan – The lines have been drawn. The world’s major automakers have set clear targets for electrifying their model lineups.

On one side are the Volkswagen Group, the Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi Alliance and Chinese OEMs, all of which are putting emphasis on pure electrics.

On the other side is Toyota, which will continue to promote its hybrid technology through 2030 and beyond.

Toyota has mapped out an electrification plan that is not overly dependent on subsidies or creative accounting. By focusing on hybrids – gasoline cars that run in part on battery power – the automaker is sticking to a formula that has generated profits for more than a decade.

In 2017, Toyota sold a record 1.6 million units, both Toyota and Lexus brands. Hybrids accounted for 17% of global sales.

It is not clear when Toyota began making profits on standard hybrids, but most likely it was between 2005 and 2010. No other OEM can make that claim.

Since launching the Prius, the world’s first mass-produced hybrid, in December 1997, Toyota has sold 12 million units. At present, it offers 36 hybrids, of which 10 are Lexus models.

Also included in its lineup is the Prius Prime, the world’s best-selling plug-in hybrid in 2017.

What is new about Toyota’s plan is that the automaker has set numerical targets: 4.5 million units by 2030, more than 40% of projected global sales including both Toyota and Lexus brands.

By 2025, the automaker intends to offer a hybrid option in every model throughout its lineup, both Toyota and Lexus, and will begin selling an unspecified number of mild hybrids.

In the all-electric segment, Toyota, the only major OEM currently not selling a battery-only car, plans to introduce 10 models early in the next decade beginning in China, then Japan, India, the U.S. and Europe.

Toyota is expanding its partnerships in the electrification field and is working with Suzuki in India, Subaru and Mazda in Japan, and with BMW in Europe.

The automaker has not set a specific sales target for all-electric cars but probably will aim for more than 500,000 units in 2030. Toyota has committed to selling as many as 1 million all-electric and fuel-cell vehicles in the 2030 timeframe, meaning its electrified total (hybrids, EVs and fuel-cell vehicles) will approach 5.5 million – or more than half of global sales.

Toyota will raise or lower its all-electric target depending on how the market responds to the technology. And it will not limit sales to the Toyota brand.

The same holds for successors to the Mirai and other FCVs in the pipeline as the automaker currently considers marketing a fuel-cell-powered Lexus.

In December, Toyota announced it would separate its EV and FCV development efforts more clearly by focusing fuel-cell technology on larger vehicles, including buses and trucks, and its all-electric technology on compact cars.

At last month’s Beijing auto show, the automaker announced it would produce an all-electric SUV in 2020 based on the C-HR and Izoa models.

Also at the show, Toyota revealed plans to introduce plug-in versions of the Chinese-built Levin and Corolla hybrids in 2019.

Other highlights from WardsAuto interviews with Toyota management and industry analysts:

  • Contrary to reports circulating last autumn, Toyota will not introduce a solid-state battery in a mass-production car early in the next decade. Safety issues must be resolved first. A more likely timeframe is 2030.
  • The Prius Prime is close to being profitable in that the main additional cost is the car’s lithium-ion battery. The motor, generator and parts of the power-control unit are shared with the standard Prius. The new one-way clutch is available only in the Prime.
  • Toyota estimates the Prime’s 8.8-kWh battery to be one-seventh as costly as a 50-kWh battery in all-electric cars and not much more than the nickel-metal-hydride battery in the standard Prius.
  • Toyota has produced an estimated 24 million motors and 12 million inverters since launching the Prius and is currently in the fourth generation of both. This is six times more than its closest competitor, Honda, and almost certainly gives Toyota a huge scale advantage in future hybrids and most likely in EVs.
  • While all current Toyota hybrids employ two motors, the automaker plans to introduce a one-motor hybrid by 2025. “We need low-priced hybrids in markets like India,” said Hisashi Nakai, director-technologies communication groups.

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