Toyota is the world’s largest car maker but for years it has arguably been slow to jump on the electric vehicle revolution while Tesla and Chinese automakers have seized the initiative.

The Japanese motor giant had a role in starting the shift to electric more than two decades ago with the release of the hybrid Prius, which inspired the inner-city elite stereotype of greenie EV drivers and a memorable South Park episode about smelling your own farts.

Toyota has sold some 18.1 million hybrid EV units, the equivalent it says to the carbon emissions reductions from 5.5 million battery EVs.

While it has been a leader in the market for fuel cell EVs with the Mirai model, it is a battle in the passenger vehicle market that for now seems to have been won by battery-powered electric vehicles.

Its first fully battery-powered model, the Toyota bZ4X, will hit the market in mid-2022. But Toyota has done a full about face, announcing a major investment to get ahead of the curve on battery EVs.

It wants to become a technology leader in the battery space, planning to spend some US$13.6 billion making its mark in the arena over the next decade.


Toyota wants to cut battery costs in half

This will be used to build out Toyota’s battery producing capacity to 180GWh and up to 200GWh should demand for EVs rise quicker than expected.

Toyota also wants to invest in cost reductions of 50 per cent for batteries in BEVs to encourage ordinary consumers to switch from internal combustion engine vehicles.

“To popularise BEVs, we would like to reduce costs and provide BEVs at a reasonable price,” Toyota chief technology officer Masahiko Maeda said in a briefing on Tuesday.

“To start with, we aim to reduce the costs of batteries themselves by 30 percent or more by developing materials and structures.

“Then, for the vehicle, we aim to improve power consumption, which is an indicator of the amount of electricity used per kilometre, by 30 percent, starting with the Toyota bZ4X.

“Improved power efficiency leads to reduced battery capacity, which will result in a cost reduction of 30 percent.

“Through this integrated development of vehicles and batteries, we aim to reduce the battery cost per vehicle by 50 percent compared to the Toyota bZ4X in the second half of the 2020s.”

Toyota announced earlier this year plans to have 70 clean vehicle options on the market by 2025, 15 of them all electric.