Toyota will convert Japanese engine factories to manufacture electric car batteries
Japanese automaker Toyota continues to delve into the Bizarro-mirrored world where it (sort of) already behaves like an EV maker. Following the news earlier this week that EV laggards laid out a $5.6 billion investment plan to build batteries, Toyota is already taking steps to convert two engine and powertrain plants near its headquarters in Japan to produce EV batteries instead.
Who is this Toyota brand, and what have they done with the gas-embracing hybrid car maker that we haven’t been talking about subtly for the past six years?
It feels like just last week we were defying Toyota North America’s executive vice president’s claims that there isn’t enough demand for electric vehicles in the US… oh, wait that I was last week. Despite those comments in the US, Toyota’s Japan headquarters pulled its head out of the sand in an effort to ramp up production of electric cars…well, batteries at least.
Earlier this week, Toyota announced a $5.6 billion payment to expand electric vehicle battery production in Japan and the United States, which includes an additional $2.5 billion investment in its North Carolina plant.
The new money follows Toyota’s initial $1.29 billion investment in U.S. batteries announced last year, bringing the total transferred to the Liberty, North Carolina, plant to $3.8 billion. During the announcement, Senior Vice President, Manufacturing and Engineering at Toyota Motor North America, Norm Pavono, said:
This plant will play a key role in driving Toyota toward a fully electrified future and will help us achieve our goal of carbon neutrality in our global vehicles and operations by 2035.
US battery production is expected to start in 2025, and the plant will of course also build hybrid cars (there is the Toyota that we know of). However, back in Japan, Toyota was even bolder by announcing that it would convert two plants for the engine and powertrain to build EV batteries instead.
Toyota’s latest investment will include batteries in Japan
according to Europe Car NewsToyota’s aforementioned investment earlier this week will also include funds to convert two of its Japanese production facilities to produce EV batteries.
The two facilities are the Shimoyama engine plant and the Myochi powertrain plant, both of which are located near the global headquarters of Toyota and have been in operation since the 1970s. The transition to electric vehicle batteries will be led by a joint venture between Toyota and Panasonic called Prime Planet Energy & Solutions.
By consolidating its investment in its North Carolina footprint, followed by a steady conversion of two Japanese facilities, Toyota is looking to adapt its existing operations and employees to the new world of electric vehicle batteries. But in true Toyota fashion, you don’t want to rush into anything.
Toyota President Akio Toyoda has indicated a rather impressive goal behind the electrified transmission – protective functions. During a recent JAMA event, Toyoda shared the following:
We need stable employment in the medium to long term and to create a society in which everyone can have hope and confidence in the future.
One could argue that society would have a lot more hope and confidence in the future if the major conglomerates abandoned their dependence on fossil fuels and carbon emissions, but hey, retaining employees is also important.
Employment numbers at both Japanese facilities are dated, but at one point they were in the thousands. Along with the North Carolina plant, Toyota says it has a total of 46 gigawatt-hours (GWh) as it expands its global network of batteries to supply 280 gigawatt-hours by 2030.
Despite grasping for “better late than never,” the Japanese automaker still intends to sell 3.5 million electric vehicles annually by 2030 across its Toyota and Lexus brands. We are still waiting.
What can we say has not already been said?
Big money for battery production in many countries is welcome news for electric vehicles, but I just give Toyota a quick pat on the head and move on. Expansion into North Carolina makes a lot of sense given the new terms in the inflation-reduction law, and Toyota could make some money selling its batteries to US partners looking to make their electric vehicles eligible for federal tax credits.
With only one BEV of its own on the market in the midst of a buyback program due to its wheels falling off, Toyota could benefit more from selling the batteries than trying to fit them into its BEVs, because there are none.
It is clear that hybrid cars remain a major part of Toyota’s electrification strategy. Yay. Like a trans hairline, you have to let go of it sometimes. It’s amazing that Toyota’s electrification voltage is encouraging compared to the progress many auto competitors have made and are still making, but here we go.
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