Toyota Motor Group is reportedly partnering with Chinese automotive giant BYD to develop a China-only EV similar to its popular Corolla that will launch in 2022 using the latter’s breakthrough lithium-iron-phosphate Blade battery.
At the same time, Toyota also outlined its plans to eliminate its European carbon emissions by 2035, which will be driven by accelerating the electrification of its available vehicles.
Despite the regional separation between the two plans, there is likely an important link, as Toyota’s partnership with BYD is at least in part an effort to learn how to build low-cost EVs.
News of Toyota’s partnership with BYD was reported last week by Reuters, who quoted “four people with knowledge of the matter … all of whom declined to be named because they are not authorised to speak to the media”.
Two of the four sources reportedly referred to the planned EV as “an electric holy grail for Toyota” due to the fact that Toyota has struggled for some time to develop a small EV that is cost-competitive in China but does not compromise on comfort.
The planned Toyota EV, which will only go on sale in China, was made possible thanks to BYD’s more compact lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) Blade batteries, which the company unveiled and made available to third-parties back in early-2020.
BYD’s experience with lower-cost engineering know-how was also cited as critical in the development of the new EV – something of a turning of the tables, for BYD, whose popular F3 saloon was inspired by Toyota’s hugely popular Corolla all the way back in 2005.
“The car was enabled by BYD battery technology,” one of the sources told Reuters. “It has more or less helped us resolve challenges we had faced in coming up with an affordable small electric sedan with a roomy interior.”
BYD, backed by American billionaire Warren Buffet who acquired a 10% stake in the company in 2008, has since become one of the largest manufacturers of electric vehicles in the world, further supported by the massive market and demand in China for small, affordable EVs.
The new Toyota/BYD EV will be slightly larger than the Toyota Corolla, and one of the sources described it as “a Corolla with bigger back-seat section”.
One of the sources who spoke to Reuters said that it would likely sell for under 200,000 yuan, which is around $A44,600 – aimed at a segment of the Chinese market that many expect Tesla to enter with a small car within the next two years.
Both Toyota and BYD refused to comment on the story.
Meanwhile, Toyota Motor Europe took to the stage to outline its plan to reduce its CO2 emissions by 100% by 2035. Toyota executives spoke at a Kenshiki event for the media last week – Kenshiki means ‘insight’ in Japanese – and gave details on the acceleration of its electrification plan, and its role in building a hydrogen economy.
Toyota Europe will begin to roll out an increasing number of “practical and affordable zero emissions vehicles (ZEVs)” with the company’s bZ4X the most recent model to be launched. By 2030, Toyota Motor Europe anticipates ZEVs will account for at least 50% of Western Europe sales.
“Moving beyond 2030, we expect … Toyota will be ready to achieve 100% CO2 reduction in all new vehicles by 2035 in Western Europe, assuming that sufficient electric charging and hydrogen refuelling infrastructures are in place by then, together with the renewable energy capacity increases that will be required,” said Matt Harrison, the head of Toyota Europe.
Toyota is also planning to begin introducing solid-state batteries, following a successful prototype testing last year. The new solid-state batteries will likely first be introduced into Toyota’s hybrid EV range before wider deployment including EVs.