Toyota North America CEO Jim Lentz told Automotive News the Japanese car maker has conceded that battery-powered electric vehicles are only viable in specific and limited applications, following two decades of attempting to make a long-range pure-electric vehicle a reality.
“In short-range vehicles that take you that extra mile, from the office to the train, or home to the train, as well as being used on large campuses,” Lentz said, “but for long-range travel primary vehicles, we feel there are better alternatives, such as hybrids and plug-in hybrids, and tomorrow with fuel cells.”
Lentz’s comments follow Toyota’s decision to end its partnership with Tesla that saw the electric vehicle specialist supply Toyota with components for the recently discontinued RAV4 EV (pictured top).
“It was time to either continue or stop,” Lentz said. “My personal feeling was that I would rather invest my dollars in fuel cell development than in another 2500 EVs.”
Toyota will launch its first hydrogen fuel cell passenger car next year. The all-new, zero-emission sedan will take inspiration from the FCV-R concept of 2011 (pictured above), which claimed a driving range of approximately 700km.
Most of today’s electric cars have a range of less than 200km, while one of the most advanced models in the world, the Tesla Model S, can travel no further than 426km on a full charge of its battery.
Fuel cells are also more efficient than batteries from a wheel-to-well perspective and cheaper in terms of their cost per vehicle.
A network of hydrogen refuelling stations will roll out across California by the second half of 2015, with 50 planned to be operational by the end of 2016.