Toyota CEO Realizes The Tesla Way, Says EVs Need An “I Love” Prefix

2 months ago by Steven Loveday 105

Toyota

Toyota Prius Prime

Tesla is making investments that do not result in immediate profit and going about its craft unconventionally. Toyota President Akio Toyoda is beginning to see this clearly as he paves that automaker’s EV future.

Toyota engineers went to great lengths to create an all-electric Toyota 86 in an attempt to impress Toyoda. Sadly, the leader of the Japanese automotive enterprise wasn’t very thrilled. He told Automotive News:

‘”The first question I got was: “What is your impression?”And my answer was, “It’s an electric car.'”

It wasn’t that Toyoda has a dislike for EVs, but rather that electric cars are just a challenge for OEMs. It’s tough to stray from conventional ideas, retool factories, invest heavily in technology that may not spawn returns for a long time. He continued:

Toyota

Inside the Toyota Prius Prime

“What I meant was, for an OEM manufacturer, you’re choking yourself. It is commoditizing your vehicle.”

This is actually a bit of a refreshingly honest statement, as we at InsideEVs have been saying for a long time that a lot of the resistance from OEMs comes from the realization that indeed all-electric cars really are a simple thing at their hearts.  And as time (and technology) progresses, there is very little “value added” features today’s traditional manufacturers can charge premium prices for.

With that said, Toyota is facing a substantial decline in net income. Back in March, the company reported a 21 percent drop for the previous fiscal year and warned that it may fall again by as much as 18 percent during the current fiscal year. If this proves true, it will be the automaker’s first two-year consecutive profit decline in over 20 years. Now, there’s a growing expectation for Toyota to dive headfirst into new technology, which may or may not prove successful for the automaker. Toyoda said:

“I feel a strong sense of crisis, about whether or not we are actually executing carmaking from the perspective of the customer in all Toyota workplaces, from development, production, procurement and sales, all the way to administrative divisions.”

“The present automobile industry is being asked to make a paradigm shift. I want to continue planting seeds with a look to 10 or even 20 years into the future.”

Toyota has spent a significant amount of money (some of that being their own) on hydrogen fuel cell research and vehicles, and has gained virtually nothing from the effort. The automaker is also setting up factories for its new Toyota New Global Architecture vehicle platform. The company just built a new factory and will be building another in Mexico by 2020. Not to mention the Japanese automaker’s billion dollar venture into artificial intelligence, multiple software and hardware based projects, and now EVs.

In order to proceed with electric vehicles, Toyoda wants to move forward on an unconventional path. He vows to keep it all “in-house” so that the automaker can go about it in a way much like that of Silicon Valley start-ups. Toyoda shared:

“I want to change the way they work on EVs. Maybe we will call them electric vehicles, but introduce connectivity. Think about Tesla. Tesla is producing cars. And Toyota is producing cars. But what Tesla is producing is something close to an iPhone.”

The Toyota boss started the process by heading up the new EV group himself. He is the CEO of Toyota’s new EV Business Planning Department, which is run by just Toyoda and three others. He told Automotive News:

“When it comes to electric vehicles, every car, be it the Yaris or whatever, once it is electrified, the acceleration is all the same. The reason I am responsible for EVs as well is that I don’t want to make these cars a commodity. Even with the electrification of the vehicles, I want the prefix “I love’ to be affixed to those cars.”

He’s aware that with electric cars, it’s high time to truly revamp his thinking … time to rework the entire automaking process. He continued:

“When it comes to making ever-better cars in a smart way, it is becoming apparent that there is still room for improvement. We need to change the work style.”

“Sales revenue is very slow to increase. But in that environment … as the paradigm shift continues, we must make investments in those areas that do not produce immediate profit. That’s the difficult challenge we are confronting.”

Source: Automotive News

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105 responses to "Toyota CEO Realizes The Tesla Way, Says EVs Need An “I Love” Prefix"

  1. CCIE says:

    Hopefully they follow through! Once the legacy makers accept that EVs are inevitable and really put effort into them across their whole lineups, then the electrification of the automobile will happen faster than most people imagine. Public fast charging advances and rollout a will quickly follow.

    1. fasterthanonecanimagine says:

      fasterthanonecanimagine 🙂

    2. john1701a says:

      Prime is a full EV platform already.

      That will continue heavily to the cost-reduction needed for longer range to become a realistic in high-volume.

      1. CCIE says:

        Nope, it’s a hybrid platform that allows limited EV operation.

        We’ve been through this, but again:

        Big ICE + Small Motor(s) = PHEV (Prius Prime)

        Big Motor(s) + Small ICE = EREV (Volt)

        1. john1701a says:

          Changing definitions is just another way of moving goal-posts. We all see the desperate effort to mislead about EV drive Prime delivers.

          Owners are enjoying their all-electric experience and no amount of labeling will change it. The engine stays off for their entire drive.

          1. CCIE says:

            I don’t have to mislead. Anyone can look up the specs and see that the EV performance of the PP is not good. Here they are:

            http://www.caranddriver.com/comparisons/2017-chevrolet-volt-premier-vs-2017-toyota-prius-prime-advanced-comparison-test-final-scoring-performance-data-and-complete-specs-page-4

            Love that 0-60 in 12.2 seconds in EV mode. Clearly shows how undersized the motor is. Not really surprising since it’s a hybrid with some EV functionality added as an afterthought.

            1. john1701a says:

              Portraying WANT as a NEED is misleading. The impression given is that EV power isn’t enough is simply not true.

              My Prime accelerates onto the highway just fine, without having to drop the pedal to the floor.

              Anyone taking a test-drive or simply using a stopwatch to observe how much time it actually takes to merge will immediately see the misleading claims being posted.

              1. CCIE says:

                My Gen1 Volt has a 0-60 time of about 9 seconds. I consider that slow. Gen2 Volt is much better.

                12+ seconds is painfully slow. Not the way to get people excited about electric cars.

                1. john1701a says:

                  Know your audience.

                  Mainstream buyers don’t care.

                  1. CCIE says:

                    Mainstream people like driving a car that can’t get out of it’s own way? Come on

                2. john1701a says:

                  btw, you keep implying that maximum power is required… which is a disparate effort to misrepresent.

                  1. CCIE says:

                    Maximum power is often required. Like merging onto a busy highway.

                    The issue is that the PP doesn’t have a large enough motor to achieve reasonable acceleration even at maximum power.

                    1. john1701a says:

                      >>Maximum power is often required.

                      When?

                      Where?

                      There no reason to believe such a claim either, since owners certainly aren’t encountering such a situation. The classic model of Prius was slower, yet it didn’t have any trouble with power either.

                      It’s just marketing that convinces us more is needed.

                    2. CCIE says:

                      As I said, it’s needed when merging.

                      Forget marketing, I have a car that does 0-60 in 9 seconds. That rate is too slow for me and anyone would consider it “acceptable” at best. The PP is 3 seconds slower than that. Not good.

                      I haven’t met many people who enjoyed the driving experience of the original Prius. They tolerated it because of the excellent mpg.

                    3. john1701a says:

                      Failure to price necessity speaks for itself.

              2. Chris says:

                lol. just lol.

                I have though, come to accept that the Prius driver who “Knows No Better”, would be “in love” with their make believe EV.

                In that situation, who am I to argue? Any electrification is better than none. But as Toyoda has now come to accept, in his own words: “…as the paradigm shift continues..” fuller electrification is inevitable.

        2. Nix says:

          What is a medium size ICE and a medium size motor?

          1. CCIE says:

            I guess it would be a judgement call 🙂

            I would tend to say that anything where the electric motor is not clearly larger is a half-hearted attempt.

            1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

              Surely you mean, anything where the electric motor is not clearly more powerful.

              It doesn’t take much of an ICEngine to be larger than an electric motor! Especially if you include all the Rube Goldberg kludges that an ICEngine needs to prevent it from melting, exploding, or tearing itself to pieces when used to power an automobile. Thankfully, electric motors don’t need such kludges as radiators, water pumps, oil pumps, mufflers, catalytic converters, fan belts, etc. etc.!

              1. CCIE says:

                Yes, the electric motor(s) should be significantly more powerful than the ICE.

          2. john1701a says:

            More is not necessarily better.

            We’ve been brainwashed to think that it is with heavy marketing. That’s a sad reality we’ve fallen into.

            Fortunately, we have Nissan & Toyota making efforts to overcome that belief by focusing on affordability rather than just emphasizing more.

            1. CCIE says:

              Yup, those non-TMS batteries from both manufacturers are sure to be the wave of the future!

              1. john1701a says:

                Another misrepresentation attempt.

                Toyota employs a TMS too. It uses air though, rather than liquid. That has proven effective. New design and improved chemistry builds upon it.

                Claims that isn’t the case by implying only passive thermal management is use shows how unwilling some are to facing facts. There can be more than one solution to the same problem.

                1. CCIE says:

                  Yup, others have used air-cooled batteries.

                  It is proven that a non-liquid TMS leads to rapid degradation in hot locations.

                  1. john1701a says:

                    There’s a big difference between ACTIVE and PASSIVE air cooling.

                    Mixing the two together, even though they are fundamentally different, is a clear misunderstanding of the technology.

                    Look up the difference. Notice how one regulates temperature so much better than the other?

                    1. scoops says:

                      When it’s 100F+ outside how does air cooling bring the battery to a comfortable temperature?

                      My Ford Focus Electric, Chevy Volt and Fiat 500e all have the solution: LIQUID COOLING.

                    2. john1701a says:

                      Forced A/C keeps the battery comfortable. It operates that easy both when driving and while plugged in.

          3. john1701a says:

            Notice how the obsession with power diverts attention away from what’s actually important?

            Using electricity to be green is the goal, not to switch guzzling habits from gas to electricity.

            Some EV systems are very inefficient. Supporters attempt to justify that waste by focusing on want, hoping that desire will make it acceptable.

    3. Interesting Picture for this article! I wonder if Toyota has thought about showing the Prius Prime Launching a High Performance Sail Plane? (Like the one they show in the Valley, that the people are watching Soar!)

      Even – they could connect with Cadet Troops, and use the car to do Glider Tows, of the Glider Trainers with the Cadets, Video that, and use it in commercials! No Doubt that the Tesla Inside RAV4 EV’s could do the tow, but could the Prius Prime do it – In All Electric Operation? (Those Glider Trainers are not as efficient, as the High Performance Sail Planes!)

  2. Brandon says:

    Good, maybe in the coming years we will get an electric awd yaris with 200hp. That’s something that would put the “I LOVE” squarely in front of an otherwise despised vehicle sooo much untapped potential.

  3. Will says:

    Camary EV at Camary price will sell. Charging station have to progress faster then cars

  4. Martin T. says:

    Dear Toyoda, Thank you for seeing the EV light (Not just the Hydrogen one) however to make your cars more spirited handling wise please reduce the amount of negative over steer. Your new rear suspension setups are in the right direction, but the styling and tuning need improvement. Please see your new partner Mazda or European makes for styling / handling inspiration while keeping Toyota’s quality and durability. Look forward to future products 🙂

    1. Aaron says:

      Negative oversteer? You mean understeer?

  5. AlanSqB says:

    Congratulations Toyoda, but no EV credits for you.

    It’s time to close down the EV tax credit. No need to reward these companies who sat on the sidelines, wringing their hands and resting on the laurels of their hybrid junk. The tax credit was to spur innovation and it has done so. Keeping it now will punish the pioneers who fought hard to sell their allowance and reward those who waited by creating price discrepancies.

    1. OCRyan says:

      This ^^^ +1

    2. gsned57 says:

      Completely agree. Tesla, GM, and Nissan (Maybe Ford) were the only automakers that put out real efforts and I’d be happy to see the incentives dwindle over the next 3-5 years to an eventual phase out. The big 3 EV makers shouldn’t suffer in 2020 because they don’t have any more EV credits available and the laggards do. The pioneers were the ones who brought the price of EV batteries and components down to where they are now. These are the same components that the laggards will use and reap huge cost benefits that others fought for.

      1. Ash09 says:

        I’d say they should give any automakers who have surpassed 100k plug-in sales an additional 200k allotment to reward them for using the plug-in tax credit for its intended purpose. And so that the lazier automakers who mostly sat on the sidelines can’t exploit it.

        Or just put in a sunset period where after 500k plug-ins combined are sold, then the tax credit phases out for everyone.

        1. SparkEV says:

          “Or just put in a sunset period where after 500k plug-ins combined are sold”

          With Tesla 3, that will be reached next year. Might as well discontinue it now.

          Better is to pool what remains into a pool. That might be few million EV.

          Even better is to make it unlimited until X day (eg. 2030 Apr. 05), and also have it roll over to following years (but not refundable) so that even the low income can enjoy the full tax break.

        2. Spider-Dan says:

          I think the best way to handle it is to convert the subsidy from “200k for each automaker.” Take whatever total amount remains, pool it all together, and let anyone claim the credits.

      2. Mike says:

        How in the world could you put Ford in with companies that actually built a real EV? The comments of Mark Fields before he was canned pretty much sum up Ford’s interest in EVs. They built a compliance car for CARB states and that is about it.

        1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

          Indeed.

          The two low-ranged PHEVs which Ford finally started making, in a rather tardy fashion, certainly don’t put it into the category with the EV innovators: GM, Tesla, and Nissan.

          1. scoops says:

            I guess you’re forgetting about the Focus Electric? Better than a LEAF, available in all 50 states. Only thing missing was QC (but the FFE was the first with 6.6kw L2 charging.) That being said, I’m no fan of Ford. Yes, I know, Magna…

            1. Nick says:

              Also missing: reliability; trunk space.

              They had the “stop safely now” faults when the two halves of the pack stopped taking to each other.

    3. WadeTyhon says:

      I would be totally fine if congress did this next year. But it wouldn’t help push EV adoption forward.

      I would prefer if they instead extended EV tax credits for manufacturers who sell a certain number of EVs by a certain date. Maybe if you produce 200k by July 2019 you get a 100k extension?

      All other brands will still be limited to 200k. And a specific date is set for when the 200k goes away. So, if you don’t produce your 200k by December 31, 2020, you lose out. It would hopefully encourage others to increase production. And would reward the early movers.

      Of course I don’t expect that. Its just what I would do!

  6. Loboc says:

    Lol. 20 years. This will all be over in 8.

    1. Soakee says:

      By “over”, I hope you mean that most people will refuse to embrace EVs and stick with ICE-powered vehicles.

      1. sveno says:

        Yes, just like everybody is sticking with Nokias 🙂

      2. Loboc says:

        By ‘over’ I mean that ICE vehicles will no longer be produced because EV is cheaper and has better TCO.

        1. Nix says:

          It will be much longer than that, especially for trucks and for the cheapest cars.

          Major energy transitions generally take 40 years (give or take a decade). That it true whether you talk wagons–>cars, steam–>diesel locomotives, gas lighting–>electric, etc. We are 5 years in.

          1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

            And yet, New York City went from being a city served almost entirely by horse-drawn vehicles, to a city served almost entirely by motorcars and trucks, in about 13 years.

            Do you think this new transportation revolution will happen slower? I do not!

        2. Nix says:

          It will likely be true that electric car TCO will beat their gas counterparts in that time-frame.

          But the fly in the ointment is that TCO is only one of many factors that new car buyers consider when making a new vehicle purchase.

          The prime example is the Ford F-Series trucks. They have been the best selling vehicle in the US for years, yet the TCO is lousy. Easily pushing past $50,000 dollars without even getting anywhere near fully optioned.

      3. ICE Vehicles – First they make NOISE, then they start to Go!
        EV’s – Just Go!

        1. SparkEV says:

          I noticed that when ICE driver gets in the car, it takes almost a minute before the car starts to move. With SparkEV, I’m moving as soon as the door is closed; I hit the start button even before I’m fully seated so that I’m ready to go.

          I start and stop almost dozen times a day sometimes (I combine trips). If I’m in ICE, the time wasted in startup delay is comparable to charging SparkEV at DCFC (if not for waiting).

      4. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

        Soakee said:

        “…most people will refuse to embrace EVs and stick with ICE-powered vehicles.”

        Nah, this motorcar thing is just a passing fad. We’ll go back to horses any year now.
        🙄

  7. john1701a says:

    Leadership is getting ordinary people to change.

    Toyota has worked hard not to waste tax-credits on conquest sales; instead, focus has been drawing in their own loyal customers as plug-in buyers. The base Prime comes with unexpected features, like Dynamic Radar Cruise and Pre-Collision Braking. Yet, the sticker price is only $27,100. That’s clearly an effort to attract their own showroom shoppers.

    Early adopters are low-hanging fruit. What happens when that market is saturated and the tax-credits are used up? Toyota has already addressed that with such a low MSRP. Their effort to address that more challenging audience is clear and had already been delivered.

    Toyota understands the vital nature of remaining profitable, despite the obvious paradigm shift to plugging in. They aren’t rolling out niche offerings to win awards & praise. They are working to appeal to their own buyers. That’s leadership.

    Think about what happens next year when GM triggers phaseout. The struggle for Volt to appeal to GM owners looking to replace their own GM vehicle will become even more of a challenge. How will plug-in growth be achieved?

    1. Loboc says:

      Absolutely none of the statements in this post makes any sense.

      – Toyota is less profitable.
      – Toyota is cannibalizing their own base so as not to get conquest sales? Lol.
      – The car market is saturated? At 1.1%? Lol.
      – GM does not have future planning? Lol.

      Making stuff up and posting it over and over won’t make it true.

      1. john1701a says:

        Replacement of traditional vehicles is the goal.

        GM is carefully avoiding electrification of their SUV models so cannibalizing doesn’t happen. How does that achieve the goal?

        LOL all you want to distract from the importance of that low MSRP. No one taking the situation seriously will be laughing.

        1. Loboc says:

          Making more stuff up about GM won’t make it true.

          Nobody is making an EV SUV. Why point out that GM doesn’t either? And a car with an SUV body is not an SUV *caugh*ModelX*caugh*.

        2. CCIE says:

          If replacement of ICE vehicles with EVs is the goal, Toyota has a funny way of going about it. It seems like a company needs to offer some mass market EVs as a first step toward that goal. They’ve been wasting their time with fool-cells.

    2. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      “Toyota has worked hard not to waste tax-credits on conquest sales; instead, focus has been drawing in their own loyal customers as plug-in buyers.”

      To translate that from marketing-ese into English: You’re saying that Toyota should be congratulated for refusing to make any plug-in EV which would actually compete with cars from other auto makers.

      Wow! I need those hip boots again, for what you’re shoveling out!

      http://dilbert.com/strip/2011-02-20

      1. john1701a says:

        The goal is to replace traditional vehicle production *NOT* to compete directly with other automakers.

        That’s why the technology has been configured to appeal to their own loyal shoppers, rather than focus on conquest.

        That mismatch of expectations is why so many hung up with the faster & further obsession have such difficulty understanding what the CEO is saying.

        1. CCIE says:

          Translation: They don’t like EVs so they have only released sub-par ones.

          Maybe they think they’ll convince the market that all EVs suck just because theirs do?

          1. john1701a says:

            Clearly, you don’t understand the audience.

            1. CCIE says:

              At the moment I am the audience. And I don’t like the songs they’re playing.

              It really seems like Toyota was hoping EVs would fail so they could keep making ICE vehicles. Though, they’re having trouble even keeping their sales of those up these days.

              1. john1701a says:

                Audience is who the vehicle was designed for, not who’s making comment about it.

                It doesn’t matter anyway. Your actions to defend GM, despite the fact that they are avoiding their own customers rather than targeting them as Toyota has, speaks for itself.

                In other words, GM can only avoid delivering some type of electrified SUV for so long. Meanwhile, there’s both RAV4 and C-HR that are plug-ready and Highlander which could ultimately join in too.

                The efforts to undermine Prime by claiming it is insufficient are weak & desperate… something this audience won’t tolerate. Anything that promotes mass acceptance (affordable pricing and not unnecessarily powerful) of plugging in should be acceptable.

                In other words, what will mainstream consumers replace their traditional vehicle with?

  8. Bacardi says:

    Two recent stories that I wonder if they had an impact…
    Mainstream media is clamoring about the Clarity PHEV which was unexpected…Next the Tesla semi, again mainstream media are labeling it as “disruptive” to the whole trucking industry…

      1. SparkEV says:

        I don’t see anyone else claiming “I love” for their EV. Toyota CEO is definitely wrong about SparkEV, but might be right about others.

        Another fact is that lovable EV are made by US carmakers (Tesla, GM). Most likely, Toyota (or Japanese) lack the technical know-how to make great EV that people love so much.

  9. Kdawg says:

    “When it comes to electric vehicles, every car, be it the Yaris or whatever, once it is electrified, the acceleration is all the same.”
    ———
    No, no, no. Why is it so hard for Toyota to understand EVs? What is Mr. Toyoda so scared of. He’s like one of those people who feel if a car doesn’t have cylinders exploding, it’s not a real car. He needs to erase his mindset and open his eyes.

    1. Paul Stoller says:

      Agreed entirely, Toyota just doesn’t get it, and I’m not convinced they will in time to save themselves. They don’t want to provide real leadership, they only want to follow, they don’t have it in them to take real risks and push the industry forward.

      I find it very humorous that Toyota is afraid of commoditization of the automobile, when they have been one of the greatest contributors into making cars into boring appliances that only helps it commoditizing their product.

      1. Malevolence says:

        I guess I should have hit refresh before repeating your sentiment below! 🙂

      2. john1701a says:

        Prius Prime delivers full EV drive. Camry, RAV4, and CH-R hybrids are all Prime-ready platforms.

        They are clearly pushing their base forward, an undeniable effort to move away from traditional vehicles. Saying they “don’t get it” makes no sense. Get what?

        1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

          Mr. Toyoda apparently does not “get” that different models of plug-in EVs will be every bit as different from each other, and eventually just as competitive with each other, as gasmobiles currently are.

          Or at least, that’s what he’s saying. Whether or not he actually believes what he’s saying… that’s another question.

      3. CCIE says:

        Yeah, they just come off as scared. They’ve lost there way since they had the vision to create the original Prius. It’s kind of sad.

    2. Ecoaccelerometry says:

      This !!!!

    3. Loboc says:

      Yep. Plain-and-same is inevitable when they are all self-driving EV boxes. Toyota can’t stop it. Basically, what he is saying is they are protecting their base as best they can.

      When an equivalent-cost EV can replace a Camry, they will lose their base fast.

  10. Malevolence says:

    I find it ironic that Toyota of all automakers is decrying the “commoditization” of automobile when they’ve practically dominated the automobile-as-an-appliance market for the last generation by selling the most commoditized vehicles in the world. Toyotas have been the reliable appliance that many buyers want and they’ve done very well providing it while other automakers sold unreliable “soul.” Now they’re pretending that EVs are bad because it makes the car a commodity? Sounds more like bitterness that the gravy train has ended for them than any concern about the “soul” of the automobile from the mouth of arguably the most soulless auto company.

    It’s kind of unfortunate that Toyota wants to blame their woes on EVs, when the reality is that Hyundai and Kia are eating their lunch. Even the legacy makers are stealing their market in recent years. EVs are just the next step in the process. If Toyota honestly sees this as the “beginning” of automotive “commoditization,” they’ve missed the boat big-time! That ship sailed long ago already full of I-4 ICE 4-doors! I guess you can at least say that Toyota is at the dock now, while Chrysler is still trying to find their bags back at the hotel room!

    1. CCIE says:

      Yeah, I try to buy domestic when possible. I know foreign companies have US factories, but the R&D money and profits still end up overseas.

      If I was going to guy a foreign car, I’d be looking at Hyundai. Much better value than Toyota. The Ioniq line looks quite promising if they can get production ramped up.

      1. john1701a says:

        The person most obsessed with EV power claiming he’d buy a plug-in hybrid with less. No one’s going to believe that.

    2. Terawatt says:

      I fully agree that Toyotas are soulless but reliable appliances, but that is *not* commoditization in the sense Toyoda is intending. Surely he means commodity in the sense that anyone can make it, about equally well, so a car is interchangeable for any other.

      Basically he is confirming what many, myself included, has been saying all along. The reasons the car industry hasn’t been keen on EVs are

      – it lowers the barriers to entry, and Economics 101 teaches that lower barriers to entry should lead to lower profit margins, all else being equal.

      – it represents a major risk factor to the established players since it requires massive investments and perhaps different business models or organizing the work differently (probably both) and generally is a leap into the unknown

      I agree with InsideEVs reporter: this was refreshingly honest.

      And I also agree with some readers who have commented that Toyota may well have been smart not to use the US tax credits and instead wait for costs to come down. They may be very well positioned to launch a very competitive offering when they finally do, and be able to sell enough from the start that they avoid making an extremely low-volume model at all.

      Even the hydrogen BS may have been a smart play. If you speak to people who aren’t especially interested – i.e. at least 95% of people! – you’ll discover that a *lot* of them are really unsure if this hydrogen thing is maybe going to be the future rather than battery-driven cars. 😀 Now, that is worth a lot if you are the most profitable car maker in the world and you want to delay EVs. I don’t believe for a second that Toyota really believes its own hype on hydrogen – but I can believe that it is simply money spent to create the impression, in the mind of the impressionable, that this hydrogen thing is coming soon and it may not be such a good idea to go get an EV now.

      Don’t get me wrong. Toyota is absolutely *evil* and I consider it an enemy of the people. But they’re not stupid.

      The transition to EVs carries huge risks for Toyota, as it does for all the incumbents. And so does self-driving technology, which may turn out to completely transform the entire business. If the ownership model changes so few people own a car and “everyone” shares a fleet of cars, everything completely changes. Not only will the product business no longer be any good (big fleet owners will be able to shop around and squeeze margins pretty well when signing deals for, say, five years and a million vehicles!), but even the products that will be in demand will completely change. If everyone can summon a car in two minutes on demand, they’ll prefer a car that is optimized for the trip. So if 90% of trips are without luggage, suddenly it makes sense for 90% of cars to have no luggage compartment at all and instead be more compact and much more roomy at the same time. Reclining rear seats a la the Lucid Air may well become the norm in a fleet model, but it will never be the norm if people overwhelmingly own the car they drive, because that car must cover nearly all the needs the owner *ever* has.

      It is only to be expected then that incumbents are reluctant. If Toyota cynically exploits a badly designed incentive scheme in the US, that is no surprise either. Evil in a way, yes – it clearly is behavior that has little to do with social responsibility and it contrasts rather sharply with how car companies like to portray themselves, whenever they show off one of their less destructive products – but not surprising.

      The real responsibility is with largely incompetent and sometimes corrupt government. In the US the incentive scheme is just horribly designed – partly because it actually provided a *disincentive* for innovators, who not only face high cost but also face later-coming competitors who get the same absolute rebate on their much cheaper product (getting 7.5k off of 25k makes a rather bigger difference than getting the same off of 100k, obviously), and partly because it is quite anti-social (people with so little income their total tax liability is less than 7.5k get less than those who earn more, including those who earn millions). That’s incompetent. In the EU, the type approval system has been revealed to be utterly corrupt, with car makers shopping around among 25 national TAAs (type approval authorities); Luxembourg for example won a lot of lucrative approvals business by being lenient and not enforcing emissions regulations. (Since EU is a single market, getting approval by *any* of the authorities means that the car is road legal in all of the EU.)

      I think it’s ok to complain about the car makers who have done little to help and often much to obstruct progress. But it would be much more rational and much more useful if people held the government accountable instead. That’s where the people are who’s job it actually is to look out for the common interest, rather than the shareholder interest.

    3. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      @Malevolence:

      Best comment in the thread, and very insightful. I wish we could “vote up” comments!

      Credit to Paul Stoller for saying it first, but you said it more eloquently and with a broader scope.

  11. Get Real says:

    I’m sure Mr. Toyoda and his three associates in the “EV Planning Department” will get right on it!

  12. Lou Grinzo says:

    This is very typical, in a way: Entrenched companies are trying to minimize the impact to them and their profits from a disruptive change.

    Honestly, I’m not sure what secret formula they think they can concoct to stay in their comfort zone, business model wise, while the entire shape of the automotive universe changes around them.

    I firmly believe that the best possible outcome as we lurch and stumble through this transition is to emerge with a wide array of companies selling different types of EVs, from Minis to semis. So I very much want to see some of the laggards — Toyota, Honda, and Ford being at the top of my list — change their ways and much more fully embrace electrification. This is why I keep saying that I hope they’re smart enough to do much more EV R&D behind the scenes than they’re talking about publicly. I would expect there to be 200+ mile versions of the Clarity EV and Prius in the works, for example, which we’ll only see on the market once the companies feel they don’t have a choice. (And the biggest single event that could push them to that realization would be the T3 selling very well.)

    1. john1701a says:

      >> I would expect there to be 200+ mile versions of the Clarity EV and Prius in the works, for example, which we’ll only see on the market once the companies feel they don’t have a choice.

      That narrative requires the reader to ignore vital facts… Prius already delivers high-volume production lithium cells and Prime already delivers full EV drive.

      Just because fewer cells are used now to make the smaller battery-packs doesn’t mean the rest of the business need to support more later hasn’t already been delivered.

      1. Terawatt says:

        This is frankly silly.

        Imagine you were to turn the Prius into an EV. You would remove the entire mechanical driveline from starter motor to wheel! While this would free up space that you could perhaps stuff with battery cells, it would be *some* coincidence if those spaces were in fact the best places to put the cells!

        If you engineered an EV from scratch you’d choose to place cells low and as near the center of the “wheel frame” as possible. You would almost certainly want to be able to insert the whole pack as a single thing, not assemble the pack as part of assembling the car. If you have active thermal management you also want the heat to be developed in a reasonably concentrated area as this makes it easier to pump away. (Although if you just want to get rid of the heat and lose the energy splitting up the pack and distributing cells all over the place might actually make this task easier – but only specifically the shedding of heat.)

        I’m sure many other considerations would also come into play. Perhaps the power electronics would be more complicated to integrate if you just stuff cells where there used to be a gearbox or an engine. Or something. The point is, whatever is a great architecture for an EV is guaranteed to be fundamentally different in several respects from what is optimal for a hybrid.

        1. john1701a says:

          >> This is frankly silly.

          Twisting what I said about component production into that is indeed silly.

          All the components necessary to create a high-volume profitable EV are being put into place.

          There was no mention of what vehicle would ultimately become that electric-only vehicle, only that the components necessary are already being produced & refined.

      2. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

        “Prime already delivers full EV drive.”

        Absolutely not. The only PHEV which is a true switch-hitter, operating equally well as a gasmobile or as a pure EV, is the Chevy Volt.

        All other PHEVs are just gasmobiles with some degree of assist from their electric motors. Yes, they can operate with only their electric motors providing propulsion, but they can’t operate equally well that way.

        1. john1701a says:

          Full EV means you can drive under all conditions using electricity… hot, cold, fast, slow, whatever.

          The fact that some systems deliver more power from the electric motor than the engine is simply a configuration difference to target a different audience. It has absolutely nothing to do with the EV itself.

          1. CCIE says:

            Full EV driving requires that the vehicle in question drive as well, or better, in EV mode as compared to gas mode. The PP can’t do that. There is no talking around that fact by claiming people don’t care. We care!

            1. john1701a says:

              Who are you trying to convince?

  13. Rambodian says:

    Geez, all the love for electric in the comments has no basis on reality. Until batteries and charging becomes as good or better than petroleum based vehicles, there is NO real market for electric.
    I’m not disputing electric performance, but they are not practical at this point in time ….. period!
    Toyota knows this, their attempt at being interested in electric is for show only. They know the truth.

    1. Mark.ca says:

      Not practical?! Are you kidding me?! They do the same job as an ICE but for 2 to 5 times less money or for free if you have panels and are a ton more reliable and lots more fun to drive…not to mention the incredibly cheap leases….keep your head in the sand and cover your ears.

    2. SparkEV says:

      Even with limited charging infrastructure, EV are very practical for battery range. With SparkEV, that’s about 50 miles from home, with Bolt about 120 miles. As a primary car for most use (most driving are in-town), this is perfectly fine. Sporadic DCFC uses for longer trips are frustrating, but not insurmountable.

      But most wouldn’t want it to be the only car. They must also have a second gasser for long trips and hauling cargo.

    3. Terawatt says:

      Simply untrue. EVs aren’t practical for *everyone*, but neither is a VW Golf or a Toyota Camry, and they have proved more than viable products both for those who made them and those who bought them.

      Today’s charging infrastructure is insufficient to allow you to travel everywhere. But nobody actually travels everywhere. And some people are actually able to adapt their behavior a little bit, if there is a benefit to doing so.

      Look at Norway. Partly because oil-producing Norway has very long had effectively carbon tax – both diesel and gasoline costing 4-5 times as much in Norway, a major oil exporter, as it does in the US, a major oil importer – and partly because of high import duties on cars, has been able to provide strong incentives for people to choose electric cars. (1)

      And it works. EVs were at the half-percent level where the US is today (I call hybrids “hybrids”, not “EVs”) fifteen years ago, perhaps because of Think, the Norwegian EV maker that Ford eventually bought and killed. But when the triplets (i-Miev, iOn and C-zero) arrived along with the LEAF in 2011, things started to really change. EV share of new car sales has continued to climb almost relentlessly ever since, and is now about 40%. Tesla is doing well, but most of the EVs sold here are more like my 2012 LEAF than any Tesla in terms of their range, power and price. Still, only about 4% of the *fleet* is electric. (Consider that with 40% share of new car sales it would take about 20 years to reach 40% of the overall fleet, and the fact that the share was always less before than it is now, and you start to see why this is so.)

      Norway is not a densely populated country. It is very long (4000 km or so north-to-south, but more than 25 000 km along the coast, although that depends on your resolution!) and in the north the distance between cities is huge. I grew up in Bodø about 150 km north of the Arctic circle, and we considered it a local derby whenever our soccer team Bodø/Glimt played our rivals from further north, Tromsø – 500 km away.

      Granted, Norway has established pretty decent charging infrastructure over the years. But it’s not like that’s difficult to do for others who would like to emulate us. In the grander scheme of things it is pocket money, and others can save a lot by simply asking us what we’ve learned. (For instance, it isn’t smart to build to small – in just a year or two you’ll have to upgrade and that means planning and analysis and all the administrative overhead is incurred again. But don’t build for too far into the future either – chargers will get faster and EVs will be able to take higher rates.)

      If the EVs currently sold in Norway can grab 40% market share, there’s no reason the EVs that’ll be on sale in 2018, nevermind 2020, shouldn’t be able to cover a big share of the market everywhere else. Escpecially when you consider that the Bolt (Ampera-e) is effectively not sold here, and the “affordable long range” segment consists of the Ioniq (which is also hard to get hold of) and the 30 kWh LEAF (which is widely available, new or barely used).

      The parliament of Norway made it an official goal that only zero emissions vehicles will be sold in Norway from 2025. Several other countries have followed suit, although only the Netherlands copied the aggressive timeframe.

      So don’t tell me it’s not practical. EVs are good enough to defend at least a 20% market share even in the US. But they are too expensive. That is changing though, and EVs continue to improve at a rate that is perhaps 100 times as high as ICE, which is little wonder given how long ICE has been fiddled with and optimized the heck out of..!

      (1) It’s not technically a duty, as that would not be legal within the EEC framework that Norway is a part of. But it is a one-time fee that must be paid when a vehicle is imported, and together with VAT it often makes up half the sticker price of a vehicle. EVs are exempted from both the import tax and VAT, making them cheaper to buy than ICE. Take VW Up for instance; in Sweden, the electric version e-Up is 70% more expensive than the fossil version. In Norway, the electric is 20% less expensive than the ICE. Add in that EVs are exempt from road tolls, park for free, travel by ferry for free, and may use the bus lanes, and you may see that in Norway, people selfishly choose an EV and thereby do what’s best for everyone.

    4. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      “Until batteries and charging becomes as good or better than petroleum based vehicles, there is NO real market for electric.”

      Hmmm, well about 455,000 people have put down $1000 to say you’re wrong, and that’s for only a single model of EV.

      Amazingly enough, not everyone wants the same thing in a car, and what many other people think is important in a car may well not be the same things you think are important.

  14. Someone out there says:

    Automakers simply have to compete in other ways, such as comfort, safety and convenience.

  15. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

    “It wasn’t that Toyoda has a dislike for EVs…”

    Seriously? Toyota’s marketing department certainly wants us to think it does!

    “What I meant was, for an OEM manufacturer, you’re choking yourself. It is commoditizing your vehicle.”

    Switching from making gasmobiles to making robust EVs is “commoditizing” the cars?

    I really don’t get this attitude. Do people buy Toyotas because they think they have an ICEegine or transmission that in some way performs better than engines or transmissions from other large auto makers? Of course not!

    People buy Toyotas because the company has a reputation for making reliable cars — not just a reliable powertrain, but the entire car — and because Toyota offers good value for the money you spend, and perhaps because they like the comfort, style, and/or luxury features of its cars.

    Which one of those things is going to change when people start driving PEVs (Plug-in EVs) rather than gasmobiles? None of them! The idea that building and selling PEVs rather than gasmobiles will leave Toyota nothing to compete on, is absurd.

    Make no mistake: The reason legacy auto makers don’t want to switch from making gasmobiles to PEVs is because of economic concerns. Because they’ve invested many billions in the technology of gasmobiles, and now much of that is going to have to be thrown away, with billions invested in EV tech, as they switch production to PEVs. Because they know they can be successful selling gasmobiles, but selling PEVs is entering uncharted waters, where there is no guarantee of continued success.

    It’s that uncertainty that, in every disruptive tech revolution, makes the old market leaders resistant to embracing the new technology. Not any nostalgia for the old way of doing things! Large successful companies in a business as highly competitive as the new car market are not driven by nostalgia; they’ll abandon an old way of doing something in a hot second if they see an economic advantage to doing things a new way.

    From what is quoted here, it looks like Toyota President Akio Toyoda is looking for sympathy. Well, my reaction isn’t to step in and give him a hug, but rather an urge to backpedal and put on hip boots, to deal with all the muck he’s shoveling out.

    First Toyota tries to tell us that there is no future in battery electric vehicles, and that FCEV “fool cell” cars are the future of automobiles. And now the CEO wants us to have sympathy for how Toyota is going to be forced to make PEVs.

    Nope, no sympathy here, Mr. Toyoda. If you can’t deal with it, then it’s time for a dinosaur like you to resign and turn the company over to someone who can lead Toyota into the future. Either that, or watch your company continue to swim against the tide of this tech revolution until it goes under, like Eastman Kodak did.

    1. Terawatt says:

      The term PEV is tautological. You’re a programmer for heaven’s sake, do some lexing (that’s lexicographical analysis for the rest of you)!

      PEV = Plug-in electric vehicle, you say.

      Well, I guess it is just about *possible* these days to power electric things wirelessly, but if you want to experience the ring “PEV” has in my ears, apply the same logical structure to *other* electric things:

      Plug-in electric toaster.
      Plug-in electric oven.
      Plug-in electric anything, really.

      Electric *implies* the ability to be plugged in. Yes, there are exceptions. My toothbrush doesn’t have a plug and can only charge inductively. Fortunately the electric charger that was included with my purchase was of the plug-in type!

      It is high time Americans asked themselves why the terminology is so illogical when it comes to vehicles. Might it be that the car industry has *taught* everyone that a car doesn’t need to run *only* on electricity to be an EV? Well, OF COURSE. They would call ICE an EV because of the starter motor if they could get away with it. Anything that creates the right associations is very welcome!

      But responsible citizens should pay attention. Language matters. There’s plenty of people who *assume* that plug-in hybrids are green, and part of the reason is that they are referred to as PHEVs, which logically means a kind of EV.

      (To be fair, PHEV is just about acceptable since it does state it is a hybrid. But why does it only state the electric side? Would you ever call a hybrid between a lion and a tiger a “hybrid lion”? Would that be any more accurate than calling it a “hybrid tiger”?)

      Please, start using the terms in the logical and clear manner that people will understand or not understand, but at least won’t create misconceptions en masse:

      – ICE: energy source is fossil fuels
      – EV: energy source is electricity
      – hybrid: uses multiple sources of energy

      If you absolutely must, you may muddy up the terminology by calling power-hybrids simply “hybrids”, even though they run exclusively on fossil fuel as their energy source. Then you can keep calling energy hybrids “plug-in hybrids”, which will work well until we all charge wirelessly.

      Legacy can be funny, but it’s mostly just confusing. Think of the young people today who try to learn how to use computers and are somehow expected to realize that an icon with a rectangle with some lines on it means “save”. If you used floppy disks the image makes a lot of sense, but if you are ten you have probably never seen one in your life! Plug-in hybrid is similar – it emphasizes a COINCIDENTAL feature of the thing but completely misses the essential concept. The essential thing with a save button is that it saves your work, regardless of floppy disks or other media. And the essential thing about an energy hybrid is that it hybridizes energy sources, not that it has a plug.

      1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

        Dude, you need to get some therapy for your obsession over labels. First you conducted a campaign against my use of the “Model ≡” label, and now you’re trying to pull the same crap with the “PEV” label.

        I didn’t invent the “PEV” label, any more than I invented the “Model ≡” label. The “PEV” label appears occasionally in InsideEVs articles, and I’ve seen Jay Cole use it in comments.

        I find the term “PEV” for “Plug-in EV” to be a useful label, in that it includes both BEVs and PHEVs. I’m certainly not going to stop using it merely because of your OCD disorder.

        Either get over it, or find someplace else to post your OCD rants.

        1. Nick says:

          Language matters.

    2. Jason says:

      I guess two comments on this:
      1) Toyota have invested very heavily on FCEV. It would have looked unlikely to succeed a few years ago, so the comment they do things in an instant if it is not economical, and they don’t invest of it doesn’t Profit them is patently false. They appear to have bet on the wrong horse.
      2) I believe the traditional manufacturers are waiting for battery prices to fall, capacities to reach parity and recharge rates to increase. Let everyone else do all the heavy lifting and then step in when the technology is “mature”.

      That’s my take on general. I love reading Pushmi-Pullyu comments, they seem generally well considered and honest.

      1. john1701a says:

        FCEV = Fuel-Cell Electric Vehicle

        Advancement in the electrical system is progress for an vehicle using electricity for propulsion & comfort. That dual benefit is so often overlooked by those against fuel-cell development, it’s difficult to take what their lack-of-investment claims of investment seriously.

        Hyundai, Honda, Diamler, Mercedes, BMW, and GM are all actively pursuing FCEV work too. How come they don’t get the same negative criticism as Toyota? It’s not like Toyota hasn’t invested heavily in lithium use. Both the regular Prius and the Prime have lithium battery-packs.

        The heating system for the cabin in Prime is the automotive industries most efficient electric heat-pump, the first of which to take advantage of vapor injection. How come that mutual benefit is so easily dismissed?

        Good business is about diversification. Pushing for a single solution simply does not make sense. Yet, that’s what many argue for. It’s so short-sighted and quite risky. The market needs variety. Think of how profoundly different each vehicle on the road is used. One size does not fit all.

  16. Jason says:

    What hybrid vehicles does Toyota have? Is it just the Prius, Camry and Corolla? Or do they have some others? I would think any serious intentions to move to EV would start by making all the vehicles hybrid (PHEV in this year of 2017, and I lump EREV into this as well. Battery + ICE = Hybrid).

    1. john1701a says:

      30,593 hybrid RAV4

      11,099 hybrid Highlander

      5,338 hybrid RX 400/450

      Those are all the hybrid SUV models those attempting to undermine & belittle Toyota carefully avoid every drawing any attention to. Notice how GM offers nothing in the SUV category, which is their most popular type of vehicle.

      Notice how well those Toyota numbers from Jan-Aug 2017 sales look here in the United States. In the European market, CH-R is already available as a hybrid. Avalon is another hybrid which is available here. Corolla is elsewhere. That delivers a strong message of reaching their goal offering hybrid models of all their passenger vehicles by 2020.

      Keep in mind how impressive the Toyota hybrid technology has advanced. The 2018 Camry delivers an EPA rating of 52 MPG. That’s incredible for a large sedan. We’ve seen how easily they are able to adapt their system to offer a plug too, without costing a major premium.

      This is why we’ve seen so many desperate attacks on Prime lately. Antagonists are doing everything they can to impede the momentum building, since their preferred automaker simply has no way to compete… specifically GM. Thankfully, we are seeing efforts by Hyundai, Nissan, Ford, and Honda pushing forward with plug-in hybrids of their own. It’s really unfortunate GM hasn’t expanded their Volt technology into another Chevy vehicle.

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