Toyota has been vocal in its belief that hydrogen-powered vehicles like the Mirai will eventually replace gas and diesels. But this insistence makes the company’s recent decision to launch a long-range EV similar to the Tesla such a surprise. Reuters (via Nikkei) is reporting that the carmaker will quietly reverse its longstanding resistance to pure all-electric vehicles in the very near future. It’s believed that Toyota will launch a new EV with a range of around 186 miles on a charge by 2020 as it looks to make all of its products emissions-free by 2050.
The company has always said that electric vehicles are great for shorter journeys, but highway warriors will want more. Toyota’s official line is that batteries are expensive, resource-intensive and have long recharge times that make it unsuitable for long commutes. By comparison, filling your car with hydrogen would mirror the experience of the gas pump, and it claims that fuel cells are greener, cheaper and go for longer.
But there are plenty of objections to Toyota’s argument, including the fact that the cost of replacing all gas pumps with hydrogen stations would be astronomical. Not to mention that sourcing hydrogen isn’t as efficient as charging a battery, since you need to expend power (via electrolysis) to produce it in the first place. Alternatively, generating hydrogen through steam reforming still produces greenhouse gases like methane and CO2. Which, given how the whole climate change thing is working out, isn’t really the aim of the exercise.
The downside to Toyota’s rumored change of heart is that the firm now lags in a sector where it previously led. After all, the Prius was the first “green” vehicle to win the hearts and minds of the mainstream, but rivals are now catching up. In addition, the Tesla Model 3, which the company claims will cost just $35,000 before incentives and have a range of 215 miles, is looming long on the horizon.