Toyota’s chairman, Takeshi Uchiyamada, led the development of the Toyota Prius. Now, he expects that demand for the latest plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHVs) will grow more quickly than it did for the original Prius.
Uchiyamada expects to sell 1 million plug-in hybrids in less than 10 years, which is the time it took for sales of its conventional hybrid vehicles to hit that mark.
“Environmental awareness has become a bigger issue today than it was 20 years ago, and demand for environmentally conscious products has increased,” Uchiyamada told reporters at an event to launch the latest plug-in version of the Prius in Japan.
Now that the company has launched the second generation of the Prius PHV, Toyota said it expects to sell up to 60,000 worldwide per year, with more than half of those sales coming from Japan. Toyota set a similar target for the first generation of its plug-in Prius. However, only about 75,000 have been sold since its launch in 2012, largely due to its limited electric range of approximately 16 miles.
The newest version has a range of about 42 miles according to Japanese standards, but due to a different methodology in measuring a car’s electric mode range, it is listed in the U.S. at approximately 25 miles.
The Prius Prime was launched in North America late last year, and the plug-in Prius will be introduced in Europe in March. The company has not disclosed plans for offering plug-in versions of other models
The latest plug-in Prius sees Toyota widely endorsing lithium-ion batteries, which is a major turning point for the company, which had previously resisted the technology typically used in all-battery electric vehicles, citing concerns about the cost, safety and size.
As other companies have marketed electric cars for almost a decade, Toyota has been promoting fuel cell-powered vehicles as the most sensible next-generation option to hybrids, although a lack of hydrogen fueling stations continues to be a major obstacle preventing them from being adopted in the mass market.
In response to tightening global emissions regulations, an increasing number of automakers are developing electric cars, and Toyota set up a new division last year to speed up its development of long-range electric vehicles.
By 2050, Toyota foresees reducing emissions by 90 percent from 2010 levels, meaning that almost every vehicle on the road will be running on some kind of green technology, such as hybrid, electric, plug-in or fuel cell.
“PHV is key to that step in making eco-cars widespread,” Uchiyamada said. “This is a product we are proud of.”