Toyota said to be looking at rebooting its EV approach – e-TNGA could make way for a dedicated EV platform

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Toyota is reportedly looking at rebooting its electric vehicle (EV) strategy in a bid to become more competitive in the new field. The Japanese automaker, which was slow to enter the segment, has apparently halted some work on existing EV projects as it looks to revamp its approach, Reuters reports.

According to no less than four sources familiar with the matter, the still-developing plans represent quite a rewrite from the US$38 billion (RM180 billion) EV rollout plan the company announced last year to better compete with the likes of Tesla.

The sources said that a working group within the company has been charged with outlining plans by early next year for improvements to its existing EV platform or for a new architecture. In the meantime, the automaker has suspended work on some of the 30 EV projects announced last December.

These include the Toyota Compact Cruiser crossover and the all-electric Crown, according to the sources as well as a information gleaned from a document sighted by Reuters. The four sources declined to be identified, because the plans have not been made public, the report said.

While the possible revamp could slow the rollout of EVs already on the drawing board, it would also give Toyota a chance to compete with a more efficient manufacturing process as industry-wide EV sales run past the company’s earlier projections.

As part of the review, Toyota is considering a successor to its e-TNGA platform, which was unveiled in 2019 and underpins its first EV, the bZ4X crossover. The automaker designed e-TNGA so that EVs could be produced on the same assembly line with petrol cars and hybrids. Based on the assumption it would need to sell about 3.5 million EVs a year, or roughly one-third of its current global volume, by 2030 to stay competitive, this made sense.

The sources said Toyota’s planning had assumed demand for EVs would not take off for several decades. However, sales of EVs are growing faster. Automakers globally now forecast plans for EVs to represent more than half of total vehicle production by 2030, part of a wave of industry-wide investment that now totals US$1.2 trillion (RM5.69 trillion).

As such, the review was triggered in part by the realisation by some of the company’s engineers and executives that it was losing the factory cost war to Tesla on EVs.

According to six people with knowledge of the matter, the person leading Toyota’s EV review is Shigeki Terashi, former chief competitive officer. His team has been designated a “BR” or “business revolution” group within Toyota, a term used for major changes including a revamp of its development and production processes two decades ago. Terashi did not respond to a request for comment.

Three of the sources revealed that Terashi’s team is considering an option to prolong e-TNGA’s usefulness by coupling it with new technnologies. He could also propose to retire e-TNGA more quickly and opt for an EV-dedicated platform engineered from the ground up. That could take roughly five years for new models, two of the sources said.

“What’s driving Terashi’s effort is the EV’s faster-than-anticipated takeoff and rapid-fire adoption of cutting-edge innovations by Tesla and others,” one of the sources said. “There is little time to waste,” said another.

Toyota is reportedly working with suppliers and considering factory innovations to bring down costs like Tesla’s Giga Press, a massive casting machine that has streamlined work in Tesla plants. Another area under review is a more comprehensive approach to an EV’s thermal management.

This could allow Toyota to reduce the size and weight of an EV battery pack and cut costs by thousands of dollars per vehicle. One of the sources said this was a “top priority” for suppliers Denso and Aisin. Both companies had no comment on the matter.

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