Toyota rolls out “BEVs in earnest.”

BEVs in earnest. Picture (c) Bertel Schmitt

The common narrative among the disruption-demographic is that large “legacy” automakers are asleep at their four wheels. The not-so-common version is: Step aside when they wake up. The step-aside moment was today, when world’s largest automaker Toyota laid out its electrification plans.

In a press conference at Toyota’s Megaweb in Tokyo, EVP Shigeki Terashi started out complaining to reporters that some of his limelight was stolen during Akio Toyoda’s announcement of a battery joint venture with Panasonic. Then he revealed that: [Continue Reading]

The indignity! Tesla Model 3 could be out-produced by “fool cell” Mirai this year

Mirai production in Motomachi, capacity 3,000 units per year

Californian carmaker Tesla is close to suffering yet another insult. The company infamously managed to deliver only 220 of its more affordable Model 3 in the two months since production was kicked-off with great fanfare. Should Tesla remain on that pace – and an article by my partner Ed Niedermeyer paints that as a strong possibility –  the allegedly mass-produced Tesla Model 3 could be out-produced by Toyota’s lowest-volume car, the hydrogen fuel cell Mirai.

[Continue Reading]

Norwegian EV party to end in May – Tesla already a wallflower

Out of the way!

Out of the way!

The electric party is about to be over in EV-wonderland Norway. In May, the 50,000th EV is expected to be sold in the country of just 5 million. This means the end of the extremely generous benefits Norwegian EV buyers enjoy. Politicians discuss a follow-up program, but it won’t be anywhere as princely as the current one. [Continue Reading]

Toyota recalls all RAV-4 EVs made with Tesla due to problems with Tesla’s powertrain

“In a complete loss of drive power, which can increase the risk of a crash.”

The DailyKanban usually doesn’t write about recalls, except in the morning roundup, and except in special circumstances. This is one of them. Toyota recalls all 2,500 RAV4 EVs built with Tesla for problems in the propulsion system supplied by Tesla.

According to a company statement, “components in the Electric Vehicle Traction Motor Assembly, which is part of the propulsion system, may cause the vehicle to shift to “neutral” due to a software issue … If the vehicle shifts to “neutral”, this will result in a complete loss of drive power, which can increase the risk of a crash.”

The recall either was no surprise to Tesla, or it wrote with a healthy dose of clairvoyance in its recent 10-K, filed in February: [Continue Reading]

What does the congressional grilling of Akio Toyoda have to do with the Mirai FCV? More than we imagine

Time to reflect

Time to reflect

Today, 5 years ago, on February 24, 2010, Toyoda CEO Akio Toyoda was mercilessly grilled in a show trial at the U.S. Congress for unintended acceleration that did, according to NASA, never happen.  Picture Mark Fields, or Mary Barra, being screamed at in Chinese, or Japanese, by lawmakers in Beijing, or Tokyo, and you won’t begin to fathom the intentional trauma. Today, February 24, 2015, the production start of Toyota’s fuel cell vehicle, the Mirai, was celebrated in a line-off ceremony at the Motomachi plant in Toyota City, Japan. Just a happenstance? Not really. [Continue Reading]

Driving Impressions: Toyota Mirai

Toyota Mirai Press Briefing Tokyo - 14 - Picture Bertel Schmitt -670

While Herr Schmitto-san was learning about Toyota’s new Mirai fuel cell vehicle (FCV) by not driving it in Japan, I was busy learning about Mirai by driving it in sunny Southern California. The Los Angeles area is already ground zero for hydrogen-powered cars in the US, thanks to major investments by the state government and small-scale FCV deployment by Honda, Hyundai and BMW. Soon it will be the first market for Mirai, the first FCV to be offered for sale to consumers and Toyota’s first step into a long-awaited hydrogen future. Driving the Mirai past competitor FCVs and refueling at a station that pumps hydrogen extracted from local sewage, it becomes clear that the first steps towards Toyota’s vision of a “hydrogen society” have already been made in sun-soaked Orange County.

[Continue Reading]

The things I learned while not test driving the hydrogen-powered Toyota Mirai

Mirai Test drive -2- Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt

Having been in far too many nearly finished cars in a former life, I don’t get excited by test drives. Nevertheless, I always go when invited. While other journalists drive the car, I shoot the breeze with the engineers who make the car. It is amazing what you can absorb while not driving at these test drives. Today for instance, I learn that the new fuel cell Toyota Mirai looks the way it looks, because the man in charge was sick of the Prius.

I am in the basement garage of Toyota’s Megaweb in Tokyo, and while the A-list of Tokyo’s automotive press corps takes a very blue, and a senior-silver Mirai through a very closed course outside, I chew, a paper cup with hotto kohee in my hands, the fat with the gentlemen who made the Mirai happen.

“I was responsible for the third generation Prius, and I was getting tired of it,” the Mirai’s project manager Toshihiro Kasai quips after he is asked why the hydrogen power-train was not simply another bullet on the option list of Toyota’s best-selling hybrid. After quickly adding that he was joking, Kasai says that the Mirai slots above the Prius, that a “higher class car must be a sedan, not a hatchback,” and that the car isn’t so expensive, because it is a premium car. It is sold as a premium car, because it still is very expensive. [Continue Reading]

Toyota unleashes fuel cell vehicle named “Mirai”

Toyota Mirai Press Briefing Tokyo - 13 - Picture Bertel Schmitt

Many decades after starting work on fuel cell technologies, Toyota launched the world’s first commercially available fuel cell vehicle today at an event in Tokyo. The car is called “Mirai,” which is Japanese for “future.” Fittingly, the event was held at Tokyo’s National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, known to natives as the “Miraikan” (= Hall of the Future”). Japanese car launches usually are a low key affair. This time, Toyota laid on a flashy show with huge holographic imagery. Officially on sale from December 15, 2014, the Mirai will retail in Japan for JPY 7,236,000 (USD 62,000) including consumption tax. Government subsidies can bring down the price to JPY 4,236,000 (USD 36,000) in some areas of Japan. [Continue Reading]