TOKYO — Long criticized as the laggard in the industry's electric vehicle race, Toyota Motor Corp. now believes it has a shot at becoming a leader.
The about-face comes down to a battery breakthrough and new confidence that next-generation solid-state batteries will make EVs more practical.
The automaker last week proclaimed that it has found the final piece of the puzzle to make EVs feasible, and unveiled aggressive plans to roll out more than 10 EVs worldwide by the early 2020s.
The move is uncharacteristically bold for a company that doesn't sell a single EV nameplate.
If its strategy works, it could vault Toyota from the back of the pack to the forefront of the race for battery-powered cars.
"It's a dramatic change in stance," Executive Vice President Shigeki Terashi acknowledged while unveiling the plan in Tokyo. "We have filled the last piece of the puzzle to this grand picture."
Toyota will introduce its first EV in China, and then gradually introduce others in Japan, India, the U.S. and Europe. As part of a larger green-vehicle blitz, Toyota also said it will create electrified versions of every nameplate in the Toyota and Lexus lineups by 2025.
Toyota has long argued that EVs would remain a niche segment because of their limited driving range, high costs and slow charging times.
But Toyota has changed gears as governments in China, Europe, India and elsewhere consider mandating eco-friendly vehicles to curb emissions and pollution.
The battery breakthrough will help it overcome some of the technological challenges, including energy density, cost and weight, Toyota now says. It intends to commercialize next-generation solid-state batteries in the early 2020s.
"The battery was the issue," Terashi said. "It was the missing piece."
Toyota now envisions a ramp-up to sell 5.5 million traditional hybrids, plug-in hybrids, EVs and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles by 2030. Contained in that target are sales of about 1 million EVs or fuel cell vehicles a year, accounting for at least 10 percent of the company's total global sales. That sales volume would represent more than twice the number of all zero-emission vehicles sold by all makers worldwide in 2016.