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August 25, 2009

Why Won’t Toyota Electrify Your Ride?

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Filed under : General Green - 2006 Toyota Prius Hybrid

Why Won't Toyota Electrify Your Ride?

The Toyota Prius has been the poster child for “green cars,” for years.  But soon, it could be the poor stepchild in a new family of electric cars being released by most other auto manufacturers.  Why won’t Toyota electrify your ride?  What is preventing the car company from plugging into the new push for electric vehicles (EVs)?

News these days is literally crackling with electric excitement over new EVs, including GM’s Chevy Volt (over 230 miles per gallon), the Nissan Leaf (coming out next year), and Mitsubishi Motors’ iMiEV (available for lease now).  These cars are 100% electric – not a hybrid.  They do not run on any gasoline.

Recent headlines declare: U.S. Buyers Want Electric Cars!

Chevrolet Volt

The Chevy Volt is a new EV

Meanwhile, Toyota is not planning on introducing an EV until 2012 – 3 years from now.  Instead, the automaker will introduce a scant number of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles this year, holding back on a 100% electric ride for now.  Those who want a Toyota electric vehicle will just have to wait.

Many people are wondering what’s behind Toyota’s decisions.  After all, it took a big risk in the 1990s, introducing the Prius hybrid.  That risk paid off by firmly establishing it as a “green” car company.  Yet now, it could pass the baton to… GM?  Nissan?

From its standpoint, Toyota has concerns about EVs in general, which explain its cautiousness.  Its Executive Vice-President, Masatami Takimoto believes that there are still too many challenges facing electric vehicles – most specifically battery technology.  Plus, it would like to boost profits with traditional or hybrid cars before….um …. switching gears to 100% EVs.  Other concerns echo those of electric vehicle critics:

  • Not many buyers at first
  • Need to recharge batteries after modest distances (approx. 40 miles)
  • Expensive batteries
  • Not enough re-charging infrastructure (i.e. solar-powered park and ride facilities)

While these are certainly hurdles that the EV market faces, there have been significant strides with respect to all 4 in past months.  Grants are being awarded to municipalities to construct infrastructure, and technology improvements have drastically reduced re-charging times.  Heck, there are even battery changing stations that can give you a new, fully charged battery in about the same amount of time it takes to fill your gas tank.

So, why won’t Toyota electrify your ride?  Perhaps they will find it shocking when their cautious standpoint costs them the edge with respect to the green car market.

What do you think?  Wise decision, or risky gamble?

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