Toyota has been under constant scrutiny in recent years from investors and environmental groups for its slow progress when it comes to electrification, with the most vocal critics in the United States.
However, the Japanese automaker's new management team that took over on 1 April has pledged to make BEVs a priority. Last month, Toyota promised 10 new battery electric models by 2026 and set a global annual production target of 1.5 million BEVs by 2026.
Some of Toyota's harshest critics have argued that this is too little, too late, disagreeing with the company's renewed commitment to a multi-pronged strategy. Under this plan, the automaker will continue to develop hybrids, plug-in hybrids, fuel cell vehicles, and other alternative fuel vehicles in addition to BEVs.
Mind you, the White House is taking Toyota's commitment to BEVs at face value. After meeting recently with senior company officials, White House senior advisor John Podesta said Toyota is now "fully committed" to producing electric vehicles.
He admitted that the Japanese carmaker "had been the laggard" in this field, but things are changing for the better.
Gallery: Toyota bZ Sport Crossover and FlexSpace Concept
"I think they're going to stick with plug-in hybrids for a while, maybe longer than some of the other companies but they're fully now committed under their new leadership to electrification," Podesta told Reuters in a roundtable meeting on May 2.
Podesta, who is a Senior Advisor to the President for Clean Energy Innovation and Implementation, previously met with Toyota Research Institute CEO Gill Pratt and Toyota North America chief administrative officer Christopher Reynolds.
Toyota and its Lexus luxury brand have just three battery models on sale on the global market – the bZ4X SUV, the China-only bZ3 saloon, and Lexus UX – and last year sold fewer than 25,000 BEVs worldwide.
Going from that to producing 1.5 million units a year by 2026 is certainly a very big leap, but let's not forget that Toyota is the world's largest carmaker and it certainly has the means to make that happen.
As part of the new plans announced last month, Toyota said it would build a new three-row electric SUV in the US that will debut in 2025 in the US. The unnamed model will be locally assembled with batteries from North Carolina.
In August 2022, Toyota said it would boost its planned investment in a new battery plant in North Carolina from $1.29 billion to $3.8 billion.