Tokyo, Japan - Toyota executives have made it clear that the company is fully committed to electric vehicles (EVs) at this year's Tokyo Auto Show. The event, which kicked off on November 5th, is showcasing a variety of battery-powered EVs from several automakers. Despite Toyota's past success in hybrids with models like the Prius, the company aims to catch up with rivals, including Tesla and BYD Auto.
Among the highlights at the Tokyo Auto Show is Mazda Motor Corp's sportscar concept, which combines a plug-in EV with the automaker's signature rotary engine. Another exciting offering is Honda Motor Co.'s Prelude sportscar EV concept. Toyota Motor Corp. presents its lean angular Lexus concept, set to hit the market in 2026. With the show open to the public from Saturday, journalists got a sneak preview on Wednesday.
Although U.S. automakers like General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. skipped the event, Mercedes-Benz and BYD are among the foreign manufacturers participating. Takero Kato, Toyota's executive in charge of EVs, denied repeating his words to counter perceptions of Toyota's commitment to EVs. While Toyota acknowledges lagging behind Tesla and BYD in EV development, the automaker aims to bridge this gap and play catchup soon.
EVs currently represent a small portion of the global auto market, with Japan accounting for less than 5%. However, the sector is growing rapidly, fueled by concerns about climate change. In contrast, EVs make up nearly 10% of sales in the United States, driven largely by Tesla's dominance. Recognizing this trend, President Biden has called for 54% of new U.S. vehicle sales to be electric by 2030. In China, a third of vehicles sold are EVs.
Toyota sold just over 25,000 EVs worldwide last year, but this year's figures already exceed 65,000, predominantly from outside Japan. The automaker has set ambitious targets, aiming to sell 1.5 million EVs per year by 2026 and 3.5 million by 2030. However, analysts believe that Chinese EV brands will continue to dominate in the short term due to limited competition. Yet, Japanese consumers, known for strong brand loyalty, may hold off on purchasing EVs until domestic offerings become more prevalent.
Nissan, one of the early pioneers in EVs with its Leaf model, showcases four EV concept cars at the Tokyo Auto Show. Their Hyper Tourer minivan concept includes advanced technologies like autonomous driving and utilizes high-energy-density solid-state batteries. Manufacturers are also emphasizing the advantages of EV technology, such as lower center of gravity, increased cabin space, and the suitability of EV powertrains for sportscars, pickups, and SUVs.
While major automakers concentrate on reducing charge time and increasing driving range, a U.S. startup called Ample has taken a different approach to address these concerns. Their battery swapping system allows for a quick five-minute swap of a fully charged battery, eliminating the need for lengthy charging times. Ample's innovative solution is already in use by Uber drivers in San Francisco and will be demonstrated at the Tokyo show in a partnership with Mitsubishi Fuso.
Toyota's strong presence at the Tokyo Auto Show reflects its determination to catch up in the EV market. With the global push for electrification and the growing demand for environmentally friendly vehicles, it is crucial for Toyota to embrace EV technology and offer competitive models. As the auto industry races towards an electrified future, Toyota aims to build this future together with its customers.