It may seem like Toyota Australia is betting on the future of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (BECEs) at the expense of plug-in battery electric vehicles (BEVs), but the Japanese brand promises something in competition with such companies comes Nissan Leaf, Hyundai Kona Electric, Kia EV6 and Tesla Model S.
Last week, Toyota Australia opened the first hydrogen filling station in Victoria to service its fleet of 20 second generation Mirai FCEVs. At the beginning of 2021, however, the brand does not yet have any BEVs (or even plug-ins) in its current range.
Speaking to the media, Toyota Australia chief Matthew Callachor said the road is leading to a BEV after gasoline-electric hybrids were introduced in most of the brand’s models, announced by the Prius nearly 20 years ago.
“We have the hybrids, they have a battery, so that’s the first step,” he said. “And I think the thing about hybrid… is that it’s an affordable technology that offers significant benefits in terms of pricing, fuel economy and carbon emissions.
“At the moment the battery is electric [vehicle]If you look at the price, it’s still pretty high, and from that point of view we’re actually going to be introducing battery electrics … but we’re going to be doing it step by step. “
What Toyota Australia’s first BEV will be is currently unclear, but the brand remains committed to the Prius, although a hybrid powertrain is now available in the Corolla, Camry, RAV4, Yaris and Yaris Cross.
A plug-in hybrid version of the Prius is available overseas as well as a RAV4-PHEV, but that would be just another half-step towards a full BEV.
More likely, however, is the EV that will emerge from Toyota’s collaboration with Subaru.
Rumor has it that the new model will be a midsize SUV that will rival the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6. Subaru is said to have chosen the christening of its version Evoltis.
However, both Toyota and Subaru models will be built on the former’s e-TNGA platform and are expected to be released later this year.
Toyota’s luxury brand Lexus has now confirmed that its first fully electric model will be the UX300e, a small SUV with a 150 kW / 300 Nm electric motor and a 54.3 kWh battery for a range of around 400 km.
The UX300e is scheduled to hit the market as early as November this year for the Melbourne Cup Carnival.
Mr Callachor said the Mirai’s introduction doesn’t mean Toyota will turn its focus away from battery electrics, but rather that the two emerging engine technologies will sit side by side.
“We’re not saying it’s just hydrogen or battery. We’re offering options in both categories to move forward, but this is certainly our first serious step into the hydrogen space of the automotive industry,” he said.
Mr. Callchor is also aware of Australia’s unique geography which makes it difficult to fully electrify models such as the HiLux ute (Australia’s best-selling model) and LandCruiser SUV, but solutions are being worked on.
“We have to look at the nature of Australia, we are a big country and we have certain vehicles to meet certain needs. Farmers with HiLuxes and LandCruisers physically need these vehicles,” he said.
“Will there be developments related to batteries and hydrogen or whatever the technology is? Yes, it will go in the future. “