A quick look at currently and shortly-to-be available electric vehicle production models from major automotive players like Nissan, BMW, Chevy, Renault and Ford would appear to be proof positive that the move toward an EV future has well and truly started. Even the Pope is going electric. Yet despite EVs clocking up significant speed, range and endurance records this year, one major auto maker has announced that it's pulling back on EV production to concentrate on its expanding family of hybrid vehicles. Toyota is still planning a full roll out of its RAV4 EV but will severely limit the availability of the Scion iQ EV microcar.
In a status summary of the company's environmental technology development progress and its deployment of vehicles plans for the next few years, the Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) revealed that it is putting the brakes on mass production of its new front-wheel-drive Scion iQ EV (eQ in Japan). Instead of several thousand electric versions of its iQ compact being made available, Toyota told us that "fewer than 100 of these vehicles will be brought into the U.S. for testing purposes."
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According to Reuters, Toyota's VC Takeshi Uchiyamada said that "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."
The Scion iQ EV sports a 12 kWh Li-ion battery that's claimed to offer a range of 100 km (62 miles) and a full charge in about three hours from a 200-volt AC outlet. It has an electric power consumption rate of 104 Wh/km, and a permanent magnet electric motor delivers maximum torque of 163 Nm and a top speed of 125 km/h (77 mph). Toyota will begin offering the vehicle to local governments and a few select users in Japan and the U.S. from December 2012.
Toyota says that the company "continues to position EVs as cars suitable for short-distance travel, use as second cars, and for fleet use, and it is necessary to verity the positioning of EVs, their methods of use and effects among other electric-powered vehicles and gain an accurate understanding of customer use circumstances and focus on acceptance in the market and customer evaluations. Research and development will continue as in the past. That said, TMC will be ready to serve customers wherever the market may lead us. We are the only manufacturer pursuing two different paths to EVs, including the new RAV4 EV that will come to market later this year."
"Toyota is not halting battery research," the company said. "We announced progress on solid state battery technology as well as joint Lithium-ion battery research with BMW." TMC has also developed new battery cells with improved output density and is currently working on wireless charging methods, which will begin performance testing in Toyota City next year.
Building on the success of its existing hybrid vehicles (sales of which are expected to exceed 1 million units by the end of 2012), TMC has announced plans to deliver 21 new hybrid vehicles (14 brand new and seven model refreshes) by the end of 2015. Hybrids equipped with a new 2.5-liter gasoline engine that's said to achieve the world's highest maximum thermal efficiency of 38.5 percent and deliver both high fuel efficiency and high output will launch next year, and an accessory outlet designed to use the hybrid system as an emergency power supply will also be offered.
A sedan-type hydrogen fuel cell vehicle is also being readied for launch "around 2015" and Toyota is currently working with its subsidiary Hino Motors on the development of a fuel cell bus, which has been penciled in for an appearance in 2016.