Toyota drops plan for widespread sales of electric car

Mon Sep 24, 2012 6:10am EDT
 
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By Yoko Kubota

TOKYO (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp has scrapped plans for widespread sales of a new all-electric minicar, saying it had misread the market and the ability of still-emerging battery technology to meet consumer demands.

Toyota, which had already taken a more conservative view of the market for battery-powered cars than rivals General Motors Co and Nissan Motor Co, said it would only sell about 100 battery-powered eQ vehicles in the United States and Japan in an extremely limited release.

The automaker had announced plans to sell several thousand of the vehicles per year when it unveiled the eQ as an pure-electric variant of its iQ minicar in 2010.

"Two years later, there are many difficulties," Takeshi Uchiyamada, Toyota's vice chairman and the engineer who oversees vehicle development, told reporters on Monday.

By dropping plans for a second electric vehicle in its line-up, Toyota cast more doubt on an alternative to the combustion engine that has been both lauded for its oil-saving potential and criticized for its heavy reliance on government subsidies in key markets like the United States.

"The current capabilities of electric vehicles do not meet society's needs, whether it may be the distance the cars can run, or the costs, or how it takes a long time to charge," said, Uchiyamada, who spearheaded Toyota's development of the Prius hybrid in the 1990s.

Toyota said it was putting its emphasis on that technology, an area in which it is the established leader. Toyota said on Monday it expected to have 21 hybrid gas-electric models like the Prius in its line-up by 2015. Of that total, 14 of the new hybrids will be all-new, the automaker said.

Toyota has previously said that it expects to have a hybrid variant available for every vehicle it sells. In a gas-electric hybrid like the Prius, a battery captures energy from the brakes to provide a supplement to the combustion engine, boosting overall mileage, particularly in stop-and-go city traffic.   Continued...

 
Toyota Motor Corp's Executive Vice President Takeshi Uchiyamada poses next to the company's newly developed compact electric vehicle eQ after a news conference in Tokyo September 24, 2012. Toyota will release 21 new hybrid vehicle models over the next three years, the Japanese automaker said on Monday. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao