Toyota has long been at the forefront of hybrid-electric technology, whether that's the new RAV4 Prime or powertrains for family cars like the Highlander and Sienna. But the Japanese automaker has been relatively quiet on the electric vehicle front, preferring to sit back as other automakers test the market.
But recent noise about Toyota and EVs suggests that state of affairs could be about to change — in a big way.
First off, new vehicles are coming. Last week, Toyota teased a new mid-size electric SUV headed for Europe running on its modular e-TNGA platform. Lexus, meanwhile, announced a new Direct4 dual-motor all-wheel-drive system for both hybrids and EVs. Subaru reportedly has a compact Forester-sized EV bound for Europe coming next year, also based on Toyota's e-TNGA platform. This suggests that Toyota and/or Lexus EVs should arrive in the U.S. in the next few years, though the details remain nebulous.
And when Toyota does foray into the U.S. EV market, it may be with game-changing solid-state battery technology. These batteries, which have been in development for years, would be safer and more durable than current lithium-ion ones. They would be more energy-dense than current tech, allowing manufacturers to add range (or use smaller packs for the same range). And crucially, they could make charging easier; solid-state batteries could theoretically charge up close to full in just 10 minutes. Eliminating range anxiety and charge time would knock out two of the major hurdles toward mass EV adoption.
Toyota previously has stated plans to have solid-state battery technology on the road by 2025...but it may arrive sooner. A new report says that, in addition to Toyota's other big announcements, Toyota may unveil a solid-state prototype sometime next year.
They won't be alone; VW appears to be moving forward toward solid-state batteries as well. That said, a former Tesla engineer believes solid-state batteries will be "irrelevant" and a "niche player at best," so what the future holds for battery tech remains to be seen.