Australia’s top-selling carmaker Toyota has long focused on reducing its CO2 emissions by popularising affordable hybrid versions of the Corolla, Camry and RAV4. Thanks to this push, hybrids are expected to account for 20 per cent of its sales next year.
But this week its vice-president of sales and marketing Sean Hanley also confirmed plans to sell full battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) as early as 2025 locally, though right now he sees them as expensive, and lacking in charging infrastructure despite public appetite.
“We've never ruled out bringing electric vehicles... to Australia, it’s just a matter of timing, and of course also a matter of having the right infrastructure in place to support it as well,” he said.
“[Hybrid] is immediately suitable to reduce our CO2 footprint, it provides outstanding fuel economy, performs well, but above all it's affordable, and I think that's what we’ve got to take into account — electrification at its current maturity is quite expensive.”
He continued: "Ultimately electric vehicles will come to Australia and Toyota will certainly be part of bringing electric vehicles to Australia in future, it's just a matter of when. I don't have a particular date today to announce, but you know it's fair to say between 2025 and 2030, I think we'll have electric vehicles in the Toyota line-up in Australia.
“I don't think it's people-readiness, I think it gets down the infrastructure, and I also think it gets down to affordability, and that's really critical here.”
Above: The Japan-only Ultra-Compact BEV.
While a few years behind some competitors, such as Nissan and Hyundai, Toyota’s global approach on the topic has been to be cautious until its proverbial ducks are in a row. It’s now promising 10 EVs in global markets by the "early 2020s”, with at least two made under joint-ventures with Subaru and Suzuki respectively.
Key challenges have been the stable supply and durability of Toyota’s in-house and joint-venture-made batteries, and it is targeting 90 per cent energy storage capability after a decade of use from lithium-ion cells.
The company also claims to be on the cusp of viable solid-state technology, and is putting in place measures for the re-use of used batteries.
It also notes the world’s biggest BEV markets such as China, the US, Norway and Germany offer government grants or tax breaks on BEVs (among other bonuses that also include free parking) to even the playing field and subjugate conventional market forces.
“I think it's important that we deliver what I believe is stainable affordable products going forward as well, because government policy can change depending on government of the day or night. So I think that's equally important consideration in the overall expansion of electrification,” Hanley added.
The company has been able to rely on its clear leadership in petrol-electric hybrid cars, made at scale, to meet regulatory hurdles to this point. Indeed its corporate CO2 average is Europe’s lowest among large-scale brands for this reason, below 100g/km.
Toyota globally expects to hit its target of having electrified vehicles accounting for over half of all sales by 2025, five years ahead of initial projections. It predicts it will sell roughly 4.5 million hybrid and plug-in hybrid models in 2025, with a further one million from all-electric and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.