Toyota is taking a different approach than other carmakers as it transitions to fully-electric cars by focusing on low price over high range. In an interview with Green Car Reports, Toyota said the key to the electric transition is making EVs affordable, rather than making EVs with longer ranges.
Cooper Ericksen, who’s a VP at Toyota Motor North America, claimed that the carmaker sees selling cheap shorter-range EVs as the better long-term strategy than loading up EVs with big, heavy (expensive) batteries:
“‘Nothing happens until you sell a car’ is an expression we have internally,” he summed. “To have a positive impact on the environment, you must sell a high volume of cars...so it’s really important that the price point is such that we can make an actual business model out of it.”
“Batteries are expensive, and the bigger you make the battery, the more expensive it is,” Ericksen said. “So the trick, I think long-term is not all about range, range, range; the trick is matching the range and the price point to what the consumer can afford.”
Ericksen makes a good point about volume, and it’s good to see an auto company as big as Toyota express the need for more EVs on the road. But more importantly, Ericksen then connects those dots with lower price-points. Good.
Ericksen then goes on to say that right now, the preoccupation that carmakers and drivers have with range is similar to the desire for more horsepower, which ends up affecting a car’s price:
“The bottom line is, over time we view EV range similar to horsepower,” Ericksen said, comparing it to how almost any customer really wanted 400 horsepower but, at an affordability standpoint, might settle for 120 hp. “People who are affluent and can afford a really expensive vehicle can afford a lot of horsepower.”
“And as people become more accustomed to operating an EV I think the anxiety over range is going to dissipate,” he continued, saying that many EV shoppers are going to understand they don’t need 300 or 400 miles—and certainly not in a second or third car.
Basically, it sounds like Ericksen is arguing that longer range is a luxury. Of course, as a luxury, Toyota will make models like the Lexus LF-Z to cater to that market. But, overall, people won’t need an EV with 400 to 500 miles of range.
Maybe this is Toyota’s way of letting us down easy and preparing us for some future EVs with crappy range, but I’m going to cautiously give the auto giant the nod here. But I will add the disclaimer that I think “crappy” range isn’t a thing. Unless you’re Ferrari, in which case, 8 miles!?
It’s possible the carmaker even considers 300 to 400 miles to be too much, since the Toyota bZ4X will go “just” 250 miles. The price of the bZ4X seems to be hovering somewhere around $40,000, and that really sucks. Ditto the Mazda MX-30, which has a range of 100 miles and starts at $33,470. Again, the range isn’t the problem with either of those. The problem — if we want more EVs on the road — is the price.