published in June 10, 2019 |
June 10, 2019 per Steve Hanley
There were headlines last week suggesting that Toyota is emerging from its "sleeping giant" phase when it comes to building electric cars. First came the news that it will develop a new chassis designed specifically for electric cars in collaboration with Subaru. This was followed by an announcement that it planned to sell 1 million cars with outlets by 2025 (whoopdedoo!).
Last week the company released a detailed press release on its plans. The Jalopnik We took a deep dive into the details of this announcement and came to a better understanding of Toyota's electric car plans for the future.
First things first. The new chassis that Toyota and Subaru will create will be called e-TNGA, a derivative of the Toyota New Global Architecture platform the company uses to build many of its internal combustion vehicles today. Think of it as the Japanese version of Volkswagen's MEB electric car tool kit.
Certain critical dimensions of the e-TNGA chassis will be attached – primarily attachment points for electric motors and battery packs – but almost all other dimensions of the cars can be stretched to meet market needs. They can become wider, taller or longer, with more or less frontal and rear projection. Batteries may be longer but not wider.
"The platform will be developed to make it widely applicable to various types of vehicles, including sedans and C-class and D-segment SUVs, as well as the efficient development of derivative models," says Toyota. The concepts shown above look like an unhappy marriage between an armadillo and a Brinks truck. As Toyota hopes to sell such incessantly ugly cars is a great mystery.
An interesting detail is that the new chassis will allow the use of vehicles only with front-wheel drive – something neither Tesla nor Volkswagen intend to offer. It will also accommodate hydrogen fuel cells, something with which Toyota has been firmly compromised for years.
Here is another detail from the Toyota press release. Collaboration in electric vehicles will not be limited to Subaru alone. Suzuki and Daihatsu will also be included to bring the benefits of electric vehicles to the small and microcar markets.
Speaking of smaller vehicles, here are several ultracompact Toyota concepts. The three-wheeled i-ROAD on the left has a top speed of 37 mph and 31 miles range. Toyota says it is intended to "serve as the last mile in urban areas." The two places in between also have a top speed of 37 mph and a range of 60 miles. The black car on the right is described as a "conceptual business model".
Toyota has other electric mobility products in progress. The scooter shown above is planned for 2020; the other two are due to debut in 2021.
Toyota is often criticized for its negative attitude towards electric cars. We have recently heard that he is exhibiting commercials for his hybrid Prius cars – which, unbelievably, they call "automatic charging electrons" – which show a sword cutting off an EV charging cable. He insists on hitting the fuel cell meme, though no one in the world really wants to buy one.
He is being dragged kicking and screaming into the future of the electric car whether he likes it or not, even though his goals can only be described as modest at best. But as the EV revolution gains momentum, Toyota runs the risk of falling behind, no matter how many other companies are partners.