Toyota to Push Hybrids, Fuel-Cell Cars, Delay Electrics

Toyota will devote most of its green-car efforts to a slew of hybrid models and a fuel-cell model while delaying efforts in the all-electric segment, the company announced Monday.

The Japanese giant, which recently reclaimed its position as the world’s top-selling car company, will release 24 new hybrid models through 2012, including 14 new ones and 7 variations on existing models.

It also plans to release its first hydrogen fuel-cell car in 2015 in Europe, the US and Japan, but has no plans to roll out an all-electric car despite its recent unveiling of the eQ limited-run electric SUV built on the RAV4 body in a joint venture with Tesla. The vehicle’s production run will be reduced below even the modest 2,000 that had been previously planned.

Toyota will also continue to develop its gasoline-engine technology to achieve a 25% improvement in fuel economy between those sold in fiscal 2005 and in fiscal 2015. That effort is focused around small-displacement engines enhanced with new hi-tech turbochargers and will be sold worldwide from 2014.

The small Aqua hybrid was released earlier this year for the domestic market while a hybrid versions of the Yaris and all other overseas models from compacts to minivans are planned for the coming three years. The slew of new models will help Toyota pass the one million mark in annual worldwide hybrid sales for the first time in 2012.

On the front line of Toyota’s gradual move to all-electrics is a plug-in hybrid that can be charged from home power supplies of which it had sold 15,600 worldwide by the end of August. The sales fell well below expectations, figured in its decision to shy away from pushing all-electric vehicles until further improvements in battery technology.

The other factor in the decision to depracate all-electrics is the dismal response to the eQ. At least two thousands were expected to be leased to municipal governments and other governmental entities in Japan and the US beginning in December. But due to poor response the projected number of such leases has been lowered from several thousand to around 100.