Electric cars may be taking over, but Toyota still feels hybrids are the future.
We keep getting told that electric cars are the future. 'You'll all be driving electric cars one day,' says the early Tesla or Leaf adopters who seem to look down on us with our Victorian-era fossil fuel-powered contraptions.
Toyota, however, disagrees with that theory. The Japanese firm has been a champion of the hybrid since its early days in the mainstream automotive landscape, and besides the Aygo and Land Cruiser, as well as its more sporty offerings, every Toyota currently available is so with some form of electric assistance.
Speaking to Top Gear at the recent Paris motor show, where a number of electric vehicles were on show, Toyota engineer Gerald Killmann confirmed that while the marque doesn't yet offer any all-electric cars, it will eventually, while hybrids won't completely disappear, being replaced somewhat by hydrogen fuel cell vehicles one day.
Toyota isn't the only manufacturer yet to delve into the realms of the all-electric car, and it certainly isn't the only brand favouring hybrids as it looks to go green, but Killmann said that with battery production not exactly increasing at a rate to satisfy every car maker the world over, hybrids may not be completely replaced by all-electric cars all that soon.
"We see hybrid lasting a long time if the shortage of battery manufacturing carries on like today," he told the BBC publication. "Say you have 40kWh of cells. Do you put them into one EV and leave 39 other cars as pure internal-combustion, or do you make 40 hybrids which have roughly 1kWh of battery each?"
Even if there was enough facilities to produce the batteries, there almost definitely won't be enough natural resources to make them.
"There isn’t enough cobalt for the kind of batteries being made now. But also each new type of battery needs huge investment in R&D and in the plant, said Killmann. "At Toyota we have made nickel-metal-hydride batteries for 20 years. We’ve paid for that plant. But if you invest in lithium-ion now, before it’s paid back you’ll have to invest again to go to solid state batteries."
When it comes to hybrids and the environment, it's a game of averages for Toyota, which wants to spread its zero-emission miles across its range, rather than making one all singing, all dancing electric car.
"Our research shows that in European cities, hybrids are running in zero-emission mode with the engine off for two-thirds of the time and half the distance they drive." Killmann said. "So if we made 40 hybrids instead of one EV we have caused half the miles to be zero-emission. If we made one EV, only one-fortieth of the city miles would be zero-emission. That’s why it’s better for air quality to democratise the hybrid.”