Electric cars are not the future, even in Europe where public perception of gas alternative mobility solutions is significantly more favorable. That, at least, is the opinion of the world’s largest automaker, as expressed by Toyota Motor Europe CEO Didier Leroy at the Paris Motor Show this week.
“We have seen that customers are not yet willing to compromise on range and they don’t like the time needed to re-charge the batteries,” said Leroy. “So even if we are ready with our production version of the iQ EV we think a plug-in hybrid solution offers A Better Way than pure electric for most customers needs.”
Less than confident about EVs being the eventual future, Leroy, describes the market for electric vehicles as, “full of uncertainty.”
For that reason Toyota believes the immediate future lies with the plug-in hybrid or what can also be called an electric car with a range-extended gasoline engine.
Toyota, for its part, has the new Prius PHEV, which Leroy says is, “the best of both worlds” and , “an efficient solution for people who want a longer driving range but still want to drive in pure EV when commuting.”
The Prius PHEV delivers 10 to 15 miles of electric only driving with a range over over 745 miles. The former, he says, is sufficient to meet the commuting needs of 70% of European drivers, while the latter range offers freedom from range anxiety.
Speaking at the reveal of several new models in Paris, including, ironically, the Toyota iQ EV, Leroy boasts of Toyota’s past efforts in hybrid technology, even commenting that 15 years after they launched the segment some automakers are only, this week, introducing their first hybrid models. As a result, Toyota in Europe expects to sell “far more” Prius PHEV models than any other automaker will sell pure electric or plug-in hybrids this year.
Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive concept will also take the Japanese automaker into the future, he says. Seeming to write-off pure electric cars, Leroy instead suggests the longer-term future is in the hydrogen fuel cell. Toyota first unveiled the FCV-R hydrogen fuel cell concept car at the Tokyo Motor Show last year and the automaker will begin testing next year for sales of a production model in 2015.
Calling it “the ultimate eco-car” Leroy says, “Our fuel cell car will emit no harmful emissions at all and will have a driving range of around 700 kms (435 miles).”
As for the present, he says Toyota is committed to a philosophy of minimizing harm while democratizing sustainable development. “We believe it is much better to sell larger numbers of accessible low emission cars than very few with zero emissions,” he says.