After leading the hybrid race, Toyota fell behind on EVs, so this division aims to help them catch up.
Considering Toyota's leadership in early hybrid development and sales with the popular Prius, it's still shocking that they don't have a single fully electric vehicle in their lineup, and we kind of get the feeling Toyota President Akio Toyoda feels the same way.
Two years ago he established an EV business planning team with 50 Toyota staff that were focused on EV development. Last year that group was merged with Toyota's advanced technology department, and now it is quadruple the size and earns official division status. According to sources cited by Japanese newspaper Mainichi, Toyota has assigned 200 engineers to the new division responsible for "development, parts procurement and preparation for mass production of electric and fuel-cell vehicles".
This new division will help give the company focus and resources in hitting its target of launching 10 EV models in the early parts of the next decade. We won't necessarily see all 10 here in North America, as China is a major market for EVs and a driving force behind this division.
While Toyota long held out on EVs because it felt battery technology was not viable for the mass market coupled with a lack of consumer interest, the increasing pressure of emissions regulations, exponential improvements in battery technology, and rapidly growing infrastructure has opened their eyes to its potential. And let's face it, Toyota would rather build its own EVS than farm it out to Chinese partners.
Of course, for Toyota, the future is more than just battery electric vehicles, so hydrogen fuel cell vehicles like the Toyota Mirai are sure to be a major component. If you're curious about the pros and cons of battery EVs and hybrids compared to hydrogen fuel cells, brush up with this Hydrogen vs Hybrid deep dive.
On the EV front, Toyota is looking particularly at solid-state batteries, which it sees as a viable power storage option in retail-market vehicles by the early 2020s.