Jun 13, 2023 - Economy

Toyota says it'll double the range of current electric vehicles

Illustration of a road with glowing electricity symbols dividing the lanes.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

Toyota said Tuesday that it's planning electric vehicles that would double the range of models currently on the road.

Why it matters: When the world's largest automaker takes a step, the earth shakes in the automotive industry. The eye-popping range goal illustrates the automaker's intention to compete for EV supremacy despite its previous hesitancy to invest heavily in the space.

The big picture: Until recently, Toyota has been vocally skeptical of the auto industry's transition to EVs, arguing they should be part of a solution also involving hybrids, plug-in hybrids and hydrogen cars.

  • But when EV-hesitant Akio Toyoda stepped down as CEO in January, it was viewed as a signal that the company plans to accelerate its own EV plans.
  • The company confirmed Tuesday that it plans to begin selling "next-generation" EVs in 2026.

Details: Takero Kato, president of Toyota's newly created BEV Factory, said the company is targeting battery-powered vehicles with range of 1,000 kilometers, which is about 620 miles, arriving in 2026.

  • "That is stunning," Cox Automotive executive analyst Michelle Krebs tells Axios, noting that range fear is one of the three top obstacles to EV adoption.
  • Most current EVs can travel about 250 to 350 miles on a single charge, though a few can go more than 400.

Between the lines: Toyota said it's achieved significant advancements in solid-state batteries, which are viewed as a next-generation improvement on today's liquid-based lithium-ion batteries.

  • The carmaker now expects to sell 1.5 million battery electric vehicles globally by 2026. Its previous target was 3.5 million "electrified" vehicles (including a mix of hybrids, plug-in hybrids, BEVs and hydrogen fuel cells) by 2030.

The impact: Toyota's stock closed up 5.7% Tuesday.

Be smart: Toyota, the leading seller of hybrids like the Prius, was never going to ignore the EV era.

  • "Whenever anyone said, 'Oh, Toyota’s lagging on EVs,' I always cautioned them: You don’t know what’s going on in their labs," Krebs says. "What’s pretty clear now is they’re going public with some of the work they’ve been doing."
  • Toyota will continue to sell a mix of powertrain choices — especially while charging infrastructure is limited and a U.S. battery supply chain is in its infancy — Jordan Choby, group VP of powertrain development for Toyota North America R&D, tells Axios.
  • “Our strategy hasn’t changed. The only thing that has changed is an acceleration of BEV" (battery electric vehicles), Choby says. “If the real focus is decarbonization, we’re doing it quite well."

What we're watching: Whether Toyota can get solid-state batteries across the finish line in a timely fashion.

  • The challenge of commercializing the technology on a cost-effective basis has thus far eluded researchers.

(Disclosure: Cox Automotive is owned by Cox Enterprises, which owns Axios.)

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