China regulations force Toyota into electric U-turn

The automobile market’s apparently inexorable drive to electric vehicles – and particularly Chinese polices promoting new energy vehicles – has forced Toyota Motor, the world’s 2nd largest automaker by sales, into what one executive regards as “agonizing” strategy U-turn.

Till recently, Toyota was among the industry’s major hold-outs versus complete electrification, and prepared to basically skip all-electric battery vehicles and turn instead to hydrogen as a mainstream option to gasoline-fueled automobiles.

Toyota Chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada, father of the gasoline-electric hybrid Prius, informed Reuters in 2013 that the hydrogen car was a “practical alternative” to the conventional combustion engine, and if there was any use for the electric vehicle (EV), it was “only as a neighborhood errands car”.

Fast-forward to late in 2016, and Toyota said it had started developing a long-range all-electric battery automobile, which industry experts say must enter the marketplace around 2020. The Japanese company has put its CEO, Akio Toyoda, in charge of a new unit named the EV Business Planning Department.

One Toyota executive, who wished to remain anonymous stated the strategy about-turn was painful and heart-wrenching.

Toyota had for some time forecasted standard hybrids and plug-in hybrids would be a medium-term way to hydrogen-powered vehicles of the future.

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