2012 Toyota RAV4 EV launch at EVS-26, Los Angeles, April 2012
After its success with hybrid technology, the logical assumption was that Toyota would jump in with both feet into development of pure electric cars.
At first it seemed that was the course Toyota was taking, with the automaker in 2010 forming a partnership with Tesla [NSDQ:TSLA] and two years later selling the RAV4 EV, albeit in limited numbers. But soon after the launch of the RAV4 EV, Toyota shocked many by deciding that fuel cells were a better bet. It then cut its ties with Tesla and started work on the Mirai.
As many have predicted, the hydrogen infrastructure necessary for fuel cells is turning out to be nothing but a pipe dream, despite Toyota’s best attempts to obfuscate the matter. In contrast, companies like Tesla have demonstrated that battery-powered electric cars can be a worthy if not superior alternative to internal combustion cars.
Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) modular platform
It seems Toyota has since realized its folly. Japan’s Nikkei on Monday reported that Toyota is rushing to start volume production of battery electric cars by 2020 and has formed a special team tasked with developing the cars, even teaming up with other companies.
The good news is that Toyota’s electric cars will likely be at the more affordable side of the new car spectrum. The Nikkei reports that Toyota’s TNGA modular platform found in cars like the Corolla and Prius is being considered as the basis of the new electric cars, the first of which is said to be an SUV.
Toyota now finds itself at a disadvantage to rivals such as Tesla and Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler, both of which can take advantage of the growing number of incentives for electrics cars being introduced in major markets with their existing offerings. Tesla and Daimler are also producing their own batteries, not only for use in cars but also the new market for energy storage.