Toyota lowers expectations for electric vehicles

Toyota has invested a massive amount of R&D in an effort to accelerate the development of hybrid drivetrains for automobiles.

Indeed, the auto manufacturer currently fields the Prius, which is ranked as one of the most popular hybrid on American roads. 

Unsurprisingly, the company has been slow to adopt full-on electric vehicles, instead opting to develop plug-in versions of its Prius while working towards hybrid versions of just about every vehicle in its fleet.

To be sure, Toyota has been working on a fully electric vehicle called the eQ. However, the carmaker recently announced very conservative plans for sales of the little electric vehicle – expecting only 100 to be sold in a very limited release in the United States and Japan.

As you may recall, Toyota previously had slightly higher expectations, especially when the eQ was unveiled in 2010 as a pure electric version of Toyota’s iQ minicar.

“Two years later, there are many difficulties,” Takeshi Uchiyamada, Toyota’s vice chairman and the engineer who oversees vehicle development, told reporters on Monday.

Reuters confirms that Toyota has also dropped plans for adding a second electric vehicle to its lineup. As I noted above, Toyota obviously has a vested interest in the hybrid market, so one can’t help but wonder if the company would rather see hybrids succeed. Remember, Toyota historically licenses its hybrid technology to other automakers and widespread adoption of electric vehicles could hurt income from its hybrid tech.

“The current capabilities of electric vehicles do not meet society’s needs, whether it may be the distance the cars can run, or the costs, or how it takes a long time to charge,” Uchiyamada added.

While Toyota plans a much smaller rollout for its electric vehicle than originally anticipated, the company is also talking about new hybrids and plans to have 21 hybrid vehicles in its lineup by 2015.