The man charting Subaru’s course in New Zealand is excited by the potential of an electric vehicle partnership announced with Toyota.
Subaru, Suzuki and potentially Mazda are the beneficiaries of a newly-unveiled plan that also ultimately also takes Toyota deep into the zero emissions EV-sphere – a space NZ’s largest car brand has so far ignored.
Everything’s now changed, with Japan’s dominant brand announcing that it will now create pure electrics not only for itself but also for other Japanese marques in which it has tech agreements.
Toyota has unveiled a new platform with enough flexibility to entertain what could be a very wide span of different kinds of vehicle – from small city cars to large sports utilities – using a “next step” solid state battery it also racing to get into production.
As a starter, it has agreed with Subaru to jointly develop an all-electric platform for midsize and large vehicles and jointly develop an electric crossover.
That vehicle, which will be sold separately under each brand, will debut in the early 2020s and, though the US is cited as a main target market, other countries where Subaru performs well might also stand a chance.
That leaves NZ in the box seat – Subaru ownership per head of population here is particularly strong.
Subaru NZ managing director Wal Dumper is excited by the potential for this. Even though his brand’s priority is to get hybrid versions of the XV and Forester into the market, he would nonetheless be highly interested in a full-blown EV bearing a Subaru badge.
“From my perspective, anything they do, I want – I want the technology,” he said in response to the future potential of, say, an all-electric Outback.
“I’ve never been scared of taking new technology and we’ve always tried to have our cars with as much specification as we can get.”
Toyota is also working with Suzuki and Daihatsu to jointly develop a compact EV.
It says its new platform will initially underpin six variations in all – a large SUV, a medium SUV, a medium crossover, a medium minivan, a medium sedan and the compact. Styling concepts of these proposals were presented at a forum on June 7.
Toyota NZ has declined to comment on what implications the EV programme has for its operation here – though it seems highly likely the operation would be keen to take at least some pure electrics.
The sector is growing yet it is largely been left in the cold. Requirement to make the cut as an EV in NZ is simple: external recharging functionality is a must-have.
This hurts TNZ. Even though it has battery-involved cars across the Toyota and Lexus line-ups that have a degree of regenerative capability, only one – Prius Prime PHEV – counts as an EV.
Accordingly, Government departments and companies looking to include EVs in their fleets would conceivably bypass Camry, Corolla and Prius hybrid cars and would also ignore the latest RAV4 in its hybrid format.
Subaru NZ expects to have its hybrid XV and Forester here early next year.
Mr Dumper, who by happenstance was in Japan last week during the announcements, says he has some questions about how many EVs the national infrastructure can ultimately cope with. But if Subaru is heading there, it could not have a better partner than Toyota.
“From my point of view, Toyota seems to be a really good partner; the model development seems to be exciting and when Subaru is struggling to make enough cars to meet demand, it makes sense.
“In saying that, I’m also really happy with the hybrid cars we will have in NZ next year. We have run customer clinics about hybrids and our customers are very accepting of what they will offer.”
He is still of the mind that hybrids make more sense in NZ than plug-in models. He also identifies that some people cannot distinguish the differences in technology and simply think that any kind of car using a battery for drivetrain assistance or economy and emissions benefit is “an electric.”
“There is so much confusion. Most people call an EV anything that is not running purely on petrol.”
Toyota Motor Corporation says its EV deployment plans will not slow down its hybrid imprint.
Yet TMC has also acknowledged a “sudden surge” of international EV popularisation – and the repercussion of increasingly stringent emissions requirements in China and Europe – has meant it has to reconsider its thinking, which until now has been that electrics are an unnecessary step between its petrol-electric hybrids and the hydrogen fuel cell vehicles it still sees as being the ultimate cars of the future.
Accordingly, it cites that of the 5.5 million battery-assisted vehicles it aims to build by 2025, almost one million could be pure EVs.
Shigeki Terashi, Toyota’s research and development chief, says TMC wants to unveil a solid-state battery for electrified vehicles ahead of next year’s Summer Olympics in Tokyo. A technology which promises lighter, more powerful and safer batteries, could be a breakthrough in popularising EVs.
It plans to start making EVs in China next year, the first being a very of the CH-R, on its way to releasing as least 10 BEVs (battery-powered models) worldwide by the early 2020s to immerse into an aim of having electrified versions of every model in the Toyota and Lexus lineups by 2025.
The new dedicated EV platform it has developed with partners is dubbed e-TNGA, a play on the company’s new-generation Toyota New Global Architecture modular platform used by Corolla, Camry and RAV4.
This article was published on http://www.stuff.co.nz an written by Richard Boselman