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I Just Noticed Something Weird: Toyota Doesn't Sell A Popular, Affordable Electric Car

The RAV4 EV from 2013. Photo: Toyota
The RAV4 EV from 2013. Photo: Toyota

I don’t know if this has already occurred to all of you out there (particularly if there are any Toyota executives reading this) but Toyota isn’t currently selling a popular, affordable electric car. Weird, right? You’d think if anybody would be doing it, it’d be Toyota.

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I’ll lay this out.

Toyota made America’s first really popular hybrid car, the Prius. (It came after the more niche two-door Honda Insight, but that wasn’t a big seller.)

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Toyota even took the Prius on from a regular hybrid to a plug-in hybrid. Nearly a third of Prius buyers at this point are getting acquainted with plugging their car in for juice, as Inside EVs reports. Sales of Prius PHEVs aren’t all that far behind Tesla Model 3 deliveries.

Toyota has the cred to make an eco car like an EV, and it has the reputation, and it’s had the time, too.

Toyota partnered with Tesla, the most successful EV-only car company of the modern age, to work on EV tech together.

That Tesla-Toyota partnership even produced an electric small crossover, the RAV4 EV before the two broke up in 2014.

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But still no mainstream EV from Toyota. Strange!

Now, Toyota never said that it was super into EVs. Instead Toyota always talked up hybrids, which makes sense as hybrids are on its existing product lineup, and hydrogen cars.

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Sure. Hydrogen cars are expensive to develop. New tech. But I’ve heard that hydrogen cars are just around the corner since the first term of Bush Jr. You mean to tell me that Toyota has been dumping all of its EV budget into hydrogen cars for nearly two decades now? I find that hard to believe.

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At the moment, Toyota says that it’s working on solid state batteries, looking to leapfrog current lithium-ion battery-electric vehicles. Great! I can’t wait for these things to go on sale... whenever that may be.

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All of this is to say is that is sure is odd that Toyota, probably the best set-up company to bring an affordable mass-market EV to showrooms, still doesn’t have a popular offering. America is overrun with Camrys and RAV4s. You’d think we’d all be driving EV ones by now. Guess not!

Raphael Orlove is features editor for Jalopnik.

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DISCUSSION

It’s not as surprising when you realize that Toyota is traditionally a very conservative company - the Prius was a major exception to how they normally operate, basically done by a skunkworks team.

And, that same team was put on the hydrogen project. Combined with national energy policy that basically consists of “idk, buy coal from Australia and turn it into hydrogen?” pushing them to develop hydrogen... and they simply never got around to developing EV tech.

That same extremely conservative mindset probably scared them away from Tesla, once the Gen 2 RAV4 EV had done its job of getting Toyota enough CARB ZEV credits to carry them until the Mirai was ready.