Global automotive giant Toyota has tapped Chinese firm BYD to build an affordable electric vehicle for the Chinese market. First reported in early December, the move is seen as an effort by the Japanese automobile company to fast-track its EV ambitions.
Toyota, which enjoys a significant 8.8% ownership of the global automobile market, has a modest EV offering by comparison.
The Japanese firm has not always been so enthusiastic about EVs. In July 2020, Toyota representatives reportedly met with US congressional leaders to lobby against US president Joe Biden’s plans to hasten EV adoption domestically.
For years, Toyota has been critical of EVs and instead invested heavily in hydrogen fuel-cell technology and hybrids (think Prius). Many of the company’s harshest words have come from CEO, Akiyo Toyoda.
However, many of the manufacturer’s competitors have since poured money into EV research and development including Ford, Hyundai and Volvo, and Toyota has since changed its EV outlook and has brought in the Warren Buffet-backed BYD to help the brand, according to Reuters.
In a statement released in early December, Toyota said it would co-develop an “affordable yet roomy” $30 000 sedan for the Chinese market and utilise BYD’s key technologies to do so.
The new EV will reportedly sport BYD’s blade battery – a power unit that has also drawn admiring looks from Tesla. The blade battery uses cobalt-free lithium iron phosphate (LFP) technology.
Originally used in buses, LFP technology has improved in leaps and bounds in recent years. BYD’s new battery is also incredibly safe relative to standard battery packs, which have developed an unfortunate reputation for catching fire when punctured or compromised in any significant manner.
In early February, the Korean automaker Hyundai was forced to recall an estimated 82 000 EVs because of faulty battery packs. The mishap reportedly cost the company upwards of $900 million.
A source close to Toyota told Reuters that the new model – reportedly a little roomier than the company’s legendary Corolla – was made possible by BYD’s technological capabilities, and that it was the firm’s first all-electric, affordable sedan.
It is unknown whether Toyota will extend its latest offering to the international market. Company executives have said that the brand’s line-up through 2025 would feature 75 new-energy vehicles, including battery-electric and hydrogen fuel-cell options.