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New Toyota CEO remains committed to hydrogen and hybrids despite recent shift to electric vehicles

Late last year, Toyota debuted a hydrogen-combustion Gazoo Racing Yaris at the WRC. (Image source: Toyota)
Late last year, Toyota debuted a hydrogen-combustion Gazoo Racing Yaris at the WRC. (Image source: Toyota)
Despite pivoting the company towards electric vehicles, Toyota's new CEO, Koji Sato, expressed in a recent interview that solid state batteries and synthetic fuels still have a way to go before being ready for prime time. The new boss also reminds us that the Japanese brand will continue to develop its hydrogen fuel-cell and combustion engines into the future, despite entering the all-electric vehicle market more seriously.

Toyota has already earned itself a bit of a reputation for being slow on the uptake when it comes to electric vehicles, and many had high hopes that the company's recent change in management would change that for the better. While the winds of change are blowing at Toyota, the company's new CEO recently had an interview with Autocar (via Motor1) that indicates it's going to be a while before we see the sort of dominance it displays over the traditional automotive market translate to its electric offerings.

When asked about electric vehicles, the Toyota boss had much to say, but the gist of it comes down to a strategy that includes multiple approaches, from battery-electric vehicles and hybrids to hydrogen-powered vehicles. While the automotive giant will continue to strengthen its foothold in the BEV space, with ten electric models planned by 2026, it will also continue to make quality hybrid vehicles and research hydrogen fuel cells and hydrogen combustion.

Toyota has been a big proponent of solid-state batteries — perhaps waiting too long for the technology to realise before committing to the electrification of its fleet — but the CEO admits that the technology is still in development.

The durability is still a huge challenge. But if we get through this point, the energy efficiency will be really fantastic. We’re on that – but we still need some time.

He shares a similar sentiment about synthetic e-fuels, with the CEO commenting that they're not efficient enough just yet to make them a viable option. Instead of developing dozens of electric vehicles, like Kia, BYD, and Tesla seem to be doing, Toyota will focus on value over variety. Sato insists that before pushing any vehicle to the market, Toyota must consider how the car is going to affect its customers and the environment.

Given this stance, it makes sense that the firm is researching a multitude of options. A plug-in hybrid Toyota Prius, for example, has enough electric range that it should serve 90% of the average driver's trips with zero tailpipe emissions — 90% of all car trips in the US are less than 20 miles, and the Prius has 44 miles of range.

Whether this scatter-shot strategy pays off for Toyota, however, remains to be seen. Already in 2022, Toyota sold 26,000 BEVs in the last year, but the new CEO intends to reach annual electric vehicle sales of 3.5 million units per year — a number that would certainly put it back in the running for top dog.

Buy The Toyota Way, Second Edition: 14 Management Principles from the World's Greatest Manufacturer on Amazon.



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> Expert Reviews and News on Laptops, Smartphones and Tech Innovations > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2023 05 > New Toyota CEO remains committed to hydrogen despite a shift to electric vehicles
Julian van der Merwe, 2023-05-18 (Update: 2023-05-18)