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Who Killed the Electric Car… Again?

Guest post by B. Jerew

Toyota postpones their plans to develop and electric carIt seem like Toyota might have done their best, but finally decided that electric vehicle [EV] technology was going to have to wait. Toyota is already known for their highly efficient vehicles, starting back in the 1970s with the Corona in the US, and the demand for more efficient vehicles, spurred by the 1974 OPEC Oil Embargo, has continued to climb ever since. Today, with the price of gasoline nearing $4 per gallon, fuel-efficient vehicles are the norm, while consumers demand better performance at the same time. Automakers have met that need and today’s vehicles are some of the best performing and most efficient in history.

In the 1990s, Toyota was among the first to electrify vehicles, starting with the Prius. Today, in its 3rd generation and having spawned a few siblings, Prius is synonymous with ‘hybrid.’ Toyota built that successful platform, the Hybrid Synergy Drive, into eleven other hybrid models in the Toyota and Lexus line, varying from the efficient and compact Toyota Prius to the luxury flagship Lexus LS600h. Toyota plans to have over twenty hybrid-drive models on the road in the next three years.

The next iteration in Toyota’s hybrid-drive was to add plug-in capability, and finally, to eliminate the internal combustion engine altogether. To that end, collaborating with Tesla Motors, Toyota developed and released this year, the 2012 Toyota RAV4 EV. It hasn’t been a big seller, but still, Toyota went on to develop an EV version of the Scion iQ, an ultra-compact. Toyota announced that the new Scion iQ EV, Toyota eQ in Japan, would be released in limited quantities to testers and fleets. Within a week of that announcement, Toyota Vice Chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada, also head of Toyota R&D, let everyone know that for Toyota’s EV program, all bets were off.

The reasons for the change are easily recognizable:  insufficient range, long recharging times, and expensive vehicles. Today’s EVs “don’t meet the needs of society,” Uchiyamada notes. True, EV manufacturers have worked hard, not only to improve EV technology, but also to educate the consumer on the new vehicles, but for the most part, pure EVs just haven’t gone mainstream for exactly these reasons. Toyota’s latest Prius campaign, “the right Prius for everyone,” prompted Forbes to remark, “and the right EV for just about no one.”

Concerns about range and expense will just have to wait for EV technology to improve, and environmental concerns, according to Toyota, are being addressed well enough by the current market of hybrid vehicles and upcoming efficient vehicles. For now, Toyota is improving its hybrid technology and expanding its implementation into new car segments, including SUVs and mid-size sedans. Toyota, only 3rd in market share here in the US, seems to be shelving their EV program until society can bear it.

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B. Jerew is an ASE-certified Master Technician who covers alternative energy topics on a number of industry blogs and portals. This particular article has been provided on behalf of Car Loans of Canada, a leading provider of auto finance services from British Columbia to Nova Scotia.

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