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Toyota's Hybrid and PHEV Strategy: A Calculated Move, Not a Missed EV Bus

The statement "Toyota was right again" regarding their focus on hybrids and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) over pure electric vehicles is a complex issue. Here's a deeper look at Toyota's strategy, the current EV landscape, and why hybrids remain relevant.

Two days ago after Torque News Kia reporter Justin Hart published "Kia, Like Other Legacy Automakers, Is Going To Focus On Making More Hybrids And Cheaper EVs," Curtis Creel, a Torque News reader, asked in a comment, "So what you're saying is Toyota was right again? When they didn't jump on the EV bandwagon right away and said hybrids and PHEV are the way because they are and Toyota has figured out how to make them last 200k without needing major repairs."

Below, I will try to explain why Toyota's hybrid car strategy still remains a relevant choice for many drivers.

Toyota's Hybrid and PHEV Focus Is A Proven Technology

Toyota pioneered hybrid technology with the Prius in 1997. Their hybrids excel in:

Fuel Efficiency: Prius and other Toyota hybrids boast impressive MPG figures, reducing fuel costs and emissions.

Reliability: Toyota hybrids have a well-deserved reputation for lasting well over 200,000 miles with minimal repairs.

Infrastructure Agnostic: Hybrids don't require a widespread charging network like EVs, making them practical in areas with limited charging options.

PHEVs: Bridging the Gap

Toyota's PHEVs, like the Prius Prime and RAV4 Prime, combine the benefits of hybrids with the ability to be plugged in and charged. This allows for: all-electric rang,e reduced emission and hybrid backup.

PHEVs can travel a significant distance (up to 40+ miles in some models) solely on electric power, perfect for daily commutes.

When driven electrically, PHEVs produce zero tailpipe emissions, contributing to cleaner air.

Once the battery depletes, the gasoline engine seamlessly takes over, offering peace of mind for longer trips.

The EV Landscape: Rapidly Evolving

While Toyota has been cautious about pure EVs, the landscape is changing rapidly. Consider these three key factors, which are the battery technology, charging infrastructure and government incentives.

EV range anxiety is a concern, but battery tech is constantly improving, offering greater range and shorter charging times.

The public charging network is expanding, making EVs more viable for longer journeys.

Many countries offer tax breaks and other incentives for EV purchases, making them more attractive financially.

Toyota's EV Strategy: Taking a Cautious Approach

Toyota isn't completely ignoring EVs. They have invested heavily in battery research and are slowly introducing electric vehicles like the bZ4X. Their cautious approach might be due to cost considerations, infrastructure concerns and the focus on existing strengths that Toyota has.

Current battery technology makes electric vehicles more expensive than hybrids.

Toyota might be waiting for the charging infrastructure to become more robust before fully committing to EVs.

Toyota excels in hybrid technology and is leveraging that strength to offer efficient and reliable vehicles.

Are Hybrids Still Relevant? Absolutely!

Despite the EV push, hybrids remain a strong choice for many drivers. Toyota's hybrid cars and hybrid vehicles in general remain a strong choice for many car drives because of affordability, fuel efficiency, lower maintenance and practicality.

Hybrids are generally cheaper to purchase than EVs, making them more accessible to a wider range of consumers.

Even without electric-only range, hybrids offer significant fuel savings compared to traditional gasoline vehicles.

Hybrid systems are proven to require less maintenance than gasoline engines, reducing long-term ownership costs.

Hybrids don't rely on a charging network, making them ideal for those with limited access to charging stations or who frequently take long road trips.

The Future: A Multi-Pronged Approach

The automotive industry is likely to see a mix of technologies in the future. Here's what to expect:

  • Hybrids will remain a significant player: They offer a practical and fuel-efficient option for many drivers, especially in regions with limited EV infrastructure.
  • PHEVs will continue to bridge the gap: They provide the benefits of both electric and gasoline powertrains, catering to drivers who want the flexibility of electric commutes with the security of a gasoline engine for longer trips.
  • EVs will gain market share: As battery technology improves, charging infrastructure expands, and costs decrease, EVs will become a more practical choice for a wider range of consumers.

Toyota's strategy is a calculated move, not a missed opportunity.

Toyota's strategy is not a case of missing the EV bus, but rather taking a calculated approach. They are leveraging their strengths in hybrids and PHEVs while strategically entering the EV market. This multi-pronged approach ensures they remain competitive in a rapidly changing landscape.

The conversation around Toyota and EVs is multifaceted. While they might not be the first mover in pure EVs, their focus on offering practical and efficient solutions across different technologies positions them well for the future. As the industry continues to evolve, Toyota's commitment to research and development will be crucial in their continued success. The ultimate winner will be the consumer, who benefits from a wider range of choices and continuous advancements in clean transportation technology.

All right, here's how we can wrap up the article with a question to spark discussion: Do you think Toyota's cautious approach to EVs, with continued focus on hybrids and PHEVs, will be a winning strategy in the long run? Why or why not? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Armen Hareyan is the founder and the Editor in Chief of Torque News. He founded in 2010, which since then has been publishing expert news and analysis about the automotive industry. He can be reached at Torque News TwitterFacebookLinkedin, and Youtube. He has more than a decade of expertise in the automotive industry with a special interest in Tesla and electric vehicles.


Mico (not verified)    April 9, 2024 - 10:08AM

This article forgot to stress that up until this year Toyota does not own the battery manufacturing process. They have been buying batteries from a Japanese company.

Armen Hareyan    April 9, 2024 - 10:09AM

In reply to by Mico (not verified)

On March 5, 2024, Toyota announced that "Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) has agreed with Panasonic Holdings Corporation (Panasonic HD) to make Primearth EV Energy Co., Ltd. (PEVE) a wholly owned subsidiary in order to strengthen its capabilities in mass-producing automotive batteries. The acquisition is scheduled to take place in late March."

DavidV (not verified)    April 9, 2024 - 10:11AM

Now consider the Toyota BZ4X EV and hydrogen-powered Mirai. Toyota is doubling down on their great hybrid system but don't think they're not investing heavily in EV. They are! At the end of the day, electric vehicles will replace the everyday car because they will be much cheaper to manufacture with 20 moving parts vs. 2000 moving parts.

Nikola (not verified)    May 11, 2024 - 2:39AM

In reply to by DavidV (not verified)

I believe that the ultimate refinement or evolution of the hybrid will be the transition from an ICE drivetrain to an electric drivetrain with various forms of energy supply (battery, capacitor) and onboard generation (fuel cells, turbines).

Wrightspeed developed a hybrid platform using an electric drivetrain with a small battery powered by a natural gas turbine. This was developed as a retrofit for trucks and buses.

Turbines are the most efficient fuel burning technology and driving a constant torque generator is more efficient than driving a heavy chassis.

EV drivetrains are, I agree, the future.

Rejean (not verified)    April 9, 2024 - 10:13AM

Your article says 'Toyota's strategy is not a case of missing the EV bus, but rather taking a calculated approach'. I beg to differ. Which company is growing at incredible speed, quickly taking over legacy company markets? Tesla who makes 100% electric vehicles. Which company has no debts, makes close to 10,000$ per vehicle and has billions in cash reserve? Tesla. Which one has a huge debt and makes about 10 times less money per vehicle than Tesla? Toyota. How long really do you think Toyota can sustain its hybrid strategy as a company like Tesla improves its products at lightning speed and increases production 10 fold every couple of years; as Chinese companies produce more and more cheap 100% EVs and the Korean car makers are shifting fast to EVs?

Richard (not verified)    April 9, 2024 - 10:15AM

Here is what I like about Toyota. Toyota kept its options open. I’m a GM guy and I like Ford trucks. I never was a Toyota, Honda etc. guy because I wanted to be All American. The thing is, these companies have very successful businesses. Toyota just thought let’s see where the market takes us. They are in every market around the world.

If you live in a mild climate that gets over 200 days of sunshine the EV is for you. Having your own array of solar just makes that even better. The rest of the world may have days it’s just cold or hot for months. Batteries have gotten better just not enough. IMHO the All In EV crowd will need to adapt. A suitcase generator that runs on _____. This is where the US big 3 need to fill in the blanks. Watch Back to the future or get some ideas pumping. Run that generator on banana peels and tofu.
Something besides, oh you’ll be fine.

KipGar (not verified)    April 9, 2024 - 10:16AM

Toyota plug in Prime models are very nice. But they are definitely a stepping stone to a full EV. I had one for 2 years and drove everywhere I could in battery mode and got annoyed when the gas engine came on. My daily driving can easily be covered with a 275 mile range electric vehicle.

AndrewW (not verified)    April 9, 2024 - 10:18AM

I worked at a taxi depo for awhile and nearly all the cars were Toyota hybrids. Sometimes I would have to drive them to Toyota service to get software updates. Some of the older ones had nearly a million kms on them and actually drove quite well and the only reason they would sell them was due to government regulation on age of the car.

RobColl (not verified)    April 9, 2024 - 10:20AM

“Current battery technology makes electric vehicles more expensive than hybrids.” - This no longer true. Battery prices have dropped dramatically in recent months. A battery EV is now cheaper to build than its equivalent ICE car and this gap will only increase. EV motor and battery technologies are advancing rapidly.