Toyota may have finally announced an electric vehicle strategy last year, but new reporting suggests that the automaker could be headed back to the drawing board. According to Reuters sources, an internal group at Toyota is tasked with working out plans to improve its current e-TNGA flexible EV platform or for developing a new EV architecture.
The e-TNGA platform is already in use in the all-electric bZ4X crossover SUV and is (for now) planned to underpin the upcoming 2023 Lexus RZ 450e.
As these changes remain under discussion, Toyota reportedly is also suspending development on certain other EV projects, including a compact electric cruiser (inspired by the FJ Cruiser) and the Toyota Crown hybrid sedan. The existing strategy called for 30 new all-electric vehicles to ship by 2030, as well as $17.6 billion in investments in battery technology and production.
However, according to the sources, Toyota is dealing with an EV manufacturing process that’s too slow and expensive compared to other manufacturers, like Tesla, that have been making electric cars for years. Reuters notes that Toyota co-developed an all-electric version of its popular RAV4 SUV with Tesla back in 2012 but cites sources saying its engineers considered the technology to be no threat. It sold off its stake in the development to Tesla in 2017 before beginning the development of its own platform.
When we reviewed the bZ4X this summer, we found that it lacks key features seen in competing EVs, like true one-pedal driving and faster charging speeds (at least for the AWD model). Even worse, the bZ4X (and the Subaru Solterra EV it shares a platform with) rollout was stalled due to a major recall for loose hub bolts that could cause a wheel to detach while driving. Toyota later fixed the problem by adding washers to the hub bolts.
Toyota was an early leader in hybrid technology with vehicles like the Prius, but more than two decades later, the Japanese automaker has fallen behind, focusing on logistically difficult hydrogen fuel-cell cars like the Mirai and lobbying to slow down the adoption of EVs in the US.
As The Verge’s transportation editor Andrew Hawkins explained ahead of Toyota unveiling its EV plans last year:
But while Toyota has been content to rest on its laurels with the Prius, the rest of the industry has lapped it several times. Companies like Nissan, General Motors, and Volkswagen have been selling pure battery-electric vehicles for years, while also revealing their plans to phase out gas cars completely. Toyota’s failure to embrace EVs is not a new concept; The New York Times noted as much in this article from 2009.