We were excited a few weeks ago when reports came out that Toyota was going to put together a team to develop long-range electric cars and bring them to market by 2020. Today, the Japanese automaker officially confirmed this effort, but not without throwing some cold water on it.
The reports claimed that Toyota was building a team in-house in order to develop electric vehicles, which was new for an automaker so far mostly entrenched in fuel cell hydrogen when it comes to zero-emission vehicle development.
Today, Toyota sent out a press release confirming the creation of an “in-house venture company responsible for developing electric vehicles”, but the company also said that only four people will be on the project.
That’s disappointing considering Toyota has over 300,000 employees. We would assume they could spare a few more to put on an EV program and presumably (hopefully), they will grow the team, but the announcement made no reference in that regard.
Instead, Toyota explained the small size of the team:
“Its small structure is designed to help it implement unconventional work processes, leading to accelerated project progress and, thus, fast-to-market products.”
Obviously, no four people team can bring a vehicle to market so Toyota will inevitably grow the team at some point if it is serious about the program, but it is not announcing anything more than 4 employees for now.
Toyota President Akio Toyoda added:
“As a venture company that will specialise in its field and embrace speed in its approach to work, it is my hope that it will serve as a pulling force for innovation in the work practices of Toyota and the Toyota Group.”
As a venture company, the group will be independent of Toyota.
Interestingly, the Japanese automaker made clear in the press release of the EV group announcement that it doesn’t mean they are completely walking away from fuel cell hydrogen, but they are clearly acknowledging the value of electric cars.
After boasting about their fuel cell development, the company wrote:
“However, different energy and infrastructure issues around the world and the rapid strengthening of regulations aimed at increasing the use of zero emission vehicles have heightened the need for product line-ups that can respond to various situations. As such, Toyota has decided to create a structure that will allow it to commercialise EVs at an early stage, along with its promotion of fuel cell vehicles, as an alternative means of achieving zero emissions.“
While Toyota is still entrenched in hydrogen fuel cell technology through its billions of dollars invested in the Mirai program, it is now showing clear signs of succumbing to physics and turning to battery-powered electric cars.