Toyota is about to pull the plug on electric cars. Production of its last EVs – the eQ electric minicar and RAV4 EV crossover – will be finished by the end of 2014, and there are no plans for any future Toyota full-size electric cars at the moment (though the Toyota i-Road three-wheeler is making headway as a rental). Recently, Mitsuhisa Kato, Toyota’s head of research and development, told Automotive News;
The cruising distance is so short for EVs, and the charging time is so long. At the current level of technology, somebody needs to invent a Nobel Prize-winning type battery.
He says today’s EVs need more batteries to offer the same driving range as a gasoline or diesel powered car. That in turn would increase the cost and charging time, leading to a “vicious cycle.”
Kato’s remarks came at the unveiling of Toyota’s hydrogen fuel cell powered car, the FCV, which is set to appear in showrooms in 2015. The Japanese auto industry as a whole is placing a huge bet on hydrogen being the fuel of choice in the future with automakers like Honda and Mazda also committing to hydrogen. At the same time, much of the rest of the automotive industry is pressing ahead to bring more electric cars to market. Somewhere down the line, there will be much weeping and wringing of hands in the board rooms of some of the world’s biggest car manufacturers. We just don’t know which ones yet.
Kato says if electrics turn out to be the way to go, Toyota has the technology already on the shelf and can ramp up production of EV’s whenever that “Nobel Prize winning battery” becomes available. In the meantime, no one is going to be buying fuel cell cars unless tens of thousands of hydrogen refueling facilities get built.
In the end, the key to the EV vs. fuel cell battle will be determined by infrastructure as much as technology.