After passing for years on the auto maker EV rush, Toyota Motor North America now says it will introduce two battery-electric vehicles and another plug-in hybrid in 2021.
The vehicles are expected to go on sale in the U.S. in 2022, the auto maker said.
One of the EVs will be for the Toyota brand, and one will be a crossover or SUV, and they will be imported at least initially from Japan, said Bob Carter, head of sales for Toyota Motor North America. Dealers have told Automotive News that a battery-electric is coming to the Lexus brand as well.
They will join Toyota's expanding lineup of hybrids, sales of which continue to grow. The BEV moves are part of what Toyota is calling a "systems approach" to reducing carbon emissions globally—relying on the belief that hybrids, plug-in hybrids and even fuel cell vehicles are best equipped to reduce carbon emissions based on individual circumstances.
"The goal is, how can we, as an industry, reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases the quickest?" Carter said. "One solution may not be the best solution. I want to be the Macy's department store of powertrains, and by doing that, we can continue to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of our customers."
The two BEVs will be the auto maker's first since it offered battery-powered RAV4s, first in the late 1990s and later in the last decade in cooperation with Tesla.
Gill Pratt, CEO of Toyota Research Institute, said research shows that BEVs may not be the best solution for all consumers, especially those with limited access to charging or who live in areas where power generation is still carbon-intensive.
"Depending on your needs and your circumstances, there are different vehicles for different circumstances that best lower carbon emissions," Pratt said.
Electrification, "without a doubt," is the future of the industry, Carter said.
"The only debate we have is on the rate of change. What we're forecasting is about 7 percent of the industry by 2025. Then it should be in vicinity of 15 or 18 percent by 2030," he said, noting that forecasts call for a flood of more than 100 battery-electric models into the U.S. market in the next five years. "Our strategy is to not only enter that market, but really continue that path as hybrid and PHEV, which is a viable alternative to consumers, and we can get them in more garages sooner."
Pratt said many current BEVs and even plug-in hybrids are equipped with battery packs that are larger than needed for most of the vehicle's use. That translates into carrying "bricks in the trunk; heavy, expensive bricks, in fact," Pratt said. Those battery packs are made up of rare raw materials and are difficult to manufacture.
He said a systems level approach that allows consumers to match their average usage to the level of electrification that best suits them would "achieve the highest carbon reduction."