Japanese newspaper Nikkei reported on Monday that in a striking break from tradition, Toyota Motor Corp. is exploring the possibility of mass-shipping long-range electric cars to the public by 2020. Despite competition like Nissan, Volkswagen and Tesla rallying behind electric vehicle production, Toyota has shown reluctance, sticking to its hydrogen fuel cell cars.
The Tokyo-based carmaker expressed reservations about electric vehicles, citing its expensive rechargeable batteries and the amount of time it takes to charge. But according to Electrek, it predicted that the remaining proponents of hydrogen fuel cell technology would eventually move to battery-powered vehicles in their bid to keep up with stricter emission controls.
Toyota's recently released Mirai hydrogen cars have failed to sell in the US at the same level as the company is used to, despite cost-cutting measures that made the vehicles cheaper. Since hitting the market last year, only 782 units of the Mirai have been delivered.
Reuters reported that the Japanese car giant was assembling a team that would start work in 2017 to create the electric vehicles that could go on single-charge drives of over 300 km (186 miles). Toyota is planning to enter the global market with the cars, shipping to Japan, California and China within the next four years.
The reports on the Japanese media were neither confirmed nor denied by Toyota, who said it said it did not comment on the plans for future projects. It did confirm however the development of fuel-efficient technologies.
The company has promised that by 2050 its cars will be completely emissions-free. Toyota's decision to achieve this by switching to electric could be due to California's emissions regulations and the tilt of China, the world's largest car market, toward electric vehicles.
Takeshi Miyao, consulting firm Carnorama's managing director, pointed to "tightening regulations" as the reason for the turnaround.