Toyota plans to launch two all-electric vehicles in the United States this year, the automaker announced, in addition to a new plug-in hybrid. The decision marks a major revision of Toyota’s electrified line in the United States, which currently consists only of hybrids, plug-in hybrids and a limited-availability hydrogen fuel cell vehicle.
Although it has been a pioneer in promoting hybrid technology for conventional vehicles, Toyota has generally been more cautious around purely electric models. In fact, it was only late that a plug-in hybrid version of the Prius arrived, with Toyota preferring to use a battery-powered electrical system that charged mainly through regenerative braking instead of external sources.
There are currently two PHEVs in the Toyota range in the USA, the 2021 Prius Prime and the 2021 RAV4 Prime. The rest, except one, are regular hybrids, such as the Prius and versions of the Corolla, Camry, Venza, Avalon, Highlander and Sienna. More unusual is the 2021 Toyota Mirai, which uses hydrogen gas and emits only water in the process, although the $ 50,000 sedan is only available in a small number of U.S. states where hydrogen supply infrastructure exists.
Recently, however, Toyota has faced pressure to adopt the BEV (battery electric vehicle). The automaker has a variety of electric vehicles planned for Japan, but there are at most two tiny seats designed to fill gaps in urban mobility and public transport. What is missing is a suitable BEV with competitive reach.
There were signs that Lexus could get the first one. Toyota’s luxury arm has already announced that it would reveal an EV in late 2021, potentially using its new DRIVE4 electrification system. This supports up to four electric motors, one on each wheel, although it can also be combined with traditional internal combustion engines for hybrid applications.
However, Toyota has its own electric vehicle platform, e-TNGA, which was designed specifically for EVs. This was launched with the promise of an electric SUV eventually in the pipeline.
What we don’t know today is just what kind of vehicles Toyota has in mind for its two North American BEVs this year. Given the demand for SUVs and crossovers continues to grow, they seem likely candidates; they also tend to have more space for batteries. However, Toyota could also choose to have a Prius BEV hatchback joining the line, or even a fully electric version of its Sienna minivan.