Toyota Motor Corp. plans to introduce a compact electric car in India in the next few years in alliance with Suzuki Motor Corp., Shigeki Terashi, executive vice-president and member of the board of Toyota, said on Tuesday.
“Suzuki has a larger share of the Indian market and we have announced our collaboration with them. We will introduce a compact battery electric vehicle (EV) but I can’t divulge anything more right now. Some of the OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) have already introduced electric vehicles in India and we don’t want to be left behind," Terashi said in Tokyo ahead of the motor show that officially opens on 24 October.
Terashi was referring to the electric car based on the Wagon R hatchback being developed by Suzuki in India.
Toyota and Suzuki first partnered in 2017 to develop affordable hybrid and electric vehicles for the Indian market.
Toyota had then agreed to supply its hybrid technology to Suzuki as part of the alliance. Subsequently, the companies agreed to sell each other’s products in India and overseas markets.
In August this year, the companies deepened their ties by buying small stakes in each other. Apart from manufacturing electric and hybrid models, both companies now plan to jointly develop autonomous driving technology.
Toyota has a small market share in India but “it is one of the markets which is in the mind (of the top executives of the company when it comes to launching battery electric vehicles)", Terashi said.
Toyota will, meanwhile, unveil a sub-compact electric vehicle this week to mark its debut in the global mass market electric vehicle industry. The vehicle will go on sale in the second half of 2020 and will be mainly used for last mile connectivity. With governments worldwide formulating stringent rules to curb vehicle emissions, the Akio Toyoda-led company is gearing up to meet those challenges with diverse technologies—hybrid and plug- in hybrid, battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cell. Toyota is also exploring partnerships with other companies to develop EV technology.
Toyota has been the leader in hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrains but has lagged rivals such as China’s SAIC Motor Corp. and France’s Renault SA in developing electric vehicles. Toyota has also been lobbying with governments, including India, for more incentives for hybrid vehicles as it considers the technology to be an interim step towards full electrification of vehicles.
Only petrol and hybrid vehicles will not be sufficient to meet the stringent fuel efficiency norms and it would have to provide battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles according to the demand of specific markets, Terashi said. Toyota’s new EV will have a range of 100 kilometres on a single charge. “Users of EV will have to be patient when it comes to charging time and price, compared to internal combustion vehicles. Compared to hybrid, electric vehicles require 50 times bigger battery and we are working with various partners such as Panasonic, China’s BYD and CATL to improve our battery technology," he said.
Toyota, in its bid to become a mobility solutions provider, also aims to supply various technologies such as hybrid systems to other companies. Earlier this year, it offered other companies free access to its hybrid powertrain system.
Toyota’s key rival, Volkswagen AG, showcased its first electric car, the ID.3, in September.
Toyota is also trying to improve its hydrogen fuel cell technology and will focus on the heavy commercial vehicle segment towards this end.
The writer is in Tokyo at the invitation of Toyota Motor Corp.