Toyota plans to launch two fully-electric vehicles in the US the year, the automaker has announced, in addition to a new plug-in hybrid. The decision marks an considerable overhaul in Toyota’s US electrified line-up, which currently consists solely of hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and a hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle with limited availability.
Though it was a trailblazer in pushing hybrid technology for mainstream vehicles, Toyota has been more cautious, generally, around purely electric models. Indeed, it was only late on that a plug-in hybrid version of the Prius arrived, with Toyota instead preferring to use a battery-electric system that charged primarily through regenerative braking rather than external sources.
Currently, there are two PHEVs in Toyota’s US range, the 2021 Prius Prime and the 2021 RAV4 Prime. The rest, bar one, are regular hybrids, like the Prius and versions of the Corolla, Camry, Venza, Avalon, Highlander, and Sienna. Most unusual is the 2021 Toyota Mirai, which runs off hydrogen gas and emits only water in the process, though the $50k sedan is only available in a small number of US states where hydrogen fueling infrastructure exists.
Recently, however, Toyota has been facing pressure to go BEV (battery-electric vehicle). The automaker has a range of electric vehicles planned for Japan, but they’re tiny two-seaters at most, intended to fill in gaps in urban mobility and government transportation. What’s been missing is a proper BEV with competitive range.
There were signs that Lexus might get their first. Toyota’s luxury arm has already announced it would be unveiling an EV later in 2021, potentially using its new DRIVE4 electrification system. That supports up to four electric motors, one driving each wheel, though also can be combined with traditional internal combustion engines for hybrid applications.
However Toyota has an electric vehicle platform of its own, e-TNGA, which has been designed for EVs specifically. That was launched with the promise of an eventually electric SUV in the pipeline.
What we don’t currently know is just what sort of vehicles Toyota has in mind for its two BEVs in North America this year. Given the demand for SUVs and crossovers continues to grow, they seem likely candidates; they also typically have more space for battery packs. Nonetheless, Toyota could also opt to have a Prius BEV hatchback join the line-up, or even an all-electric version of its Sienna minivan.