Toyota’s head of research and development, Kiyotake Ise, told media during a presentation after the 2017 Tokyo motor show that the Japanese car maker will hedge its bets across a wide variety of alternative fuel solutions including regular hybrids, plug-in hybrids, fuel cell vehicles and fully-electric cars.
Recently, major countries such as the UK, France, India and China have been setting targets to ban the sale of cars with internal combustion engines between 2030 and 2040 and plenty of analysts predict the death of petrol engines within the next decade. However, Ise believes the majority of vehicles sold by Toyota, one of the world's largest car makers, in 2050 will use some form of petrol engine augmented with electric power.
"By 2040, the simple gasoline engines or diesel engines are reduced to zero," he said.
"They may be still used in hybrids or plug-in hybrid vehicles. So gasoline and diesel engines will only be used in those type of vehicles."
Indeed, Ise said that Toyota will dramatically increase its range of hybrid offerings in the next ten years as well as plug-in hybrids like the Prius Prime that isn’t available in Australia. Fuel cell cars are also part of its expansion plans, with the potential to sell the hydrogen-fuelled Mirai sedan here in the future.
Presented in a slide as part of Ise's presentation, Toyota predicts the majority of its cars in 2050 will be either conventional hybrid or plug-in hybrids - therefore utilising a combustion engine as part of its powertrain - with full electric and fuel cell vehicles making up less than half of its projected volume.
Ise qualified that by saying "I don't think it will be just one thing and I don't think every powertrain strategy will work for every market.
"The customer and the market will choose. And that's why we are developing a wide range of powertrain solutions."
Locally, Toyota Australia's incoming Vice President of Sales and Operations, Sean Hanley, told Australian media the local arm plans to introduce three new hybrid models within the next few years, taking its total petrol-electric range to eight vehicles by 2020.
Hanley would not discuss details of the new models but it is expected to be a trio of hybrid SUVs that include the C-HR, RAV4 and Kluger - all of which are currently offered with hybrid powertrains in overseas markets.
"Every car in every segment has to play a role," Hanley said.
"We have to continually improve our hybrid mix over the next five to seven years. We need to take that up significantly in the future. And we want to increase that regardless of [sales] numbers and regulations."
Toyota Australia is also looking to sell the hydrogen fuel cell Mirai sedan locally, following a trial run of a handful of cars down under. The car completed a road show around Australia as part of public demonstrations and to educate government and industries on the benefits of hydrogen, as well as lobbying for assistance to build suitable infrastructure to support the alternative fuel source.
Support for a local version of the Mirai was confirmed by Ise saying that Australia has been earmarked as a potential market for the Mirai, which is presently sold exclusively in Japan, the USA and Europe in limited numbers, while Hanley admitted it is on the local division's long term plans.
“At some time in the future... it is a critical path to bring in these exciting new cars to market," Hanley said.
"However, until we get this type of arrangement with government and energy companies working on the same path then it is only our intention. But it is our plan at the moment to convert this to a car that is available for our market."
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