Shocking Rivals, Toyota Joins Subaru & Mazda To Offer EV Alternative

Just over 2 years ago, Toyota's then-CEO Akio Toyoda revealed a bunch of EV concepts that wowed a ... [+] stunned audience. As of today, Toyota only has one production EV.

Photo courtesy of Toyota

The automotive world is splitting into two camps--those who think the electric car is the future, and those who believe that the internal combustion engine still has a strategic place in the mix. While carmakers including Chrysler, Jaguar, Volvo, Cadillac, Alfa Romeo, Buick, Genesis, Lotus and Rolls Royce have all announced that they plan to go fully electric by 2030, others like Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Dodge, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Toyota and Mazda have all pledged to experiment with EVs while continuing to develop and fine-tune the internal combustion engine (ICE) with a strong focus on hybridization and carbon-neutral fuels.

In a surprising news conference yesterday in Tokyo, Toyota's CEO joined Mazda's and Subaru's presidents on stage to announce their joint commitment to develop new engines with a goal to decarbonize ICE cars.

Subaru CEO Atsushi Osaki (left), Toyota CEO Koji Sato (center), and Mazda CEO Masahiro Moro line up ... [+] in Tokyo to reveal their new joint multi-pathway initiative.

Photo courtesy of Toyota

The three Japanese brands announced they would optimize engines with electric motors, electric drive units and batteries, a state of affairs that seriously bucks the trend of brands morphing into EV-only line-ups. Toyota's CEO Koji Sato, Mazda's CEO Masahiro Moro and Subaru's CEO Atsushi Osaki said this strategic decision was driven by "a deep understanding of their customers' diverse lifestyles" as well as a belief in a future of the ICE. As if to show that they meant business, ex-Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda co-piloted a hydrogen-fueled Toyota GR Corolla H2 concept race car in last weekend's Fuji Speedway 24-hour endurance race, while Mazda's ex-design chief Ikuo Maeda joined Toyoda on track co-droving his firm's Mazda3 Bio concept, fueled by biofuels.

Their race results? Average. Middling.

Biofuels and hydrogen still do not deliver competitive racing performance but it's a start. Toyota, Mazda and Subaru are doubling down on the future of ICE as integral technology to slice carbon emissions, even as many carmakers, as we saw above, choose to go fully electric. However, by developing cleaner, lighter, more compact power units that can run on carbon neutral fuels and can be paired with hybrid systems, Toyota wants to inject new life into technology that's been propelling us for over a century.

For several years, Toyota has endured backlash from media and EV proponents criticizing the Japanese carmaker for being slow to adopt EVs. Toyota still only offers one production EV -- the bZ4X. In his company's defense, Toyota CEO Koji Sato says, "EVs are one road to cutting carbon.

There are other avenues as well." Yesterday, however, he, Moro and Osaki presented a united front in rejecting criticism that they were behind the curve in shifting to fully electric cars.

Toyota CEO Koji Sato (left) stands with Toyota chairman Akio Toyoda (right) at the 2023 Tokyo Auto ... [+] Salon in mid-January. (Photo by Jun Sato/WireImage)


"Engines also represent a necessary multi-pathway technology," Sato stressed. The joint effort reflects some bold strategy by Japanese carmakers to pursue a multi-path approach to reducing carbon emissions. This idea was pioneered by Toyota ex-CEO Akio Toyoda, who remained adamant that electric cars are just one part of the solution.

Toyota became the pioneer of the hybrid movement back in 1997 when it launched the world's first-ever production hybrid--the Prius. Today, it offers hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions for around 97% of its model lineup which numbers in the 70s. It also offers one of the industry's only production hydrogen-powered fuel cell cars, a luxury sedan called the Mirai, a technology which it plans to further develop.

"We are still in the transition phase where we need engines as part of the solution," says Toyota Chief Technology Officer Hiroki Nakajima. It could be a game-changing solution. This new engine has lots of wiggle room." Toyoda has said new takes on the old tech will help win the war against carbon emissions while also saving jobs and preserving the sound, smell, and feel that car fans long for.

One engine on display yesterday was Toyota's new 1.5-liter unit that will be available in both naturally aspirated and turbocharged editions. Company engineers see it as a more compact power source that delivers the same output as a standard 2.5-liter naturally aspirated engine, with far less emissions. Meanwhile, Mazda's Moro says that his company will strive to improve its signature rotary engine to be able to operate on a mixture of carbon neutral fuels.

Earlier this year, he set up a dedicated engineering team to create an eco-friendly rotary engine that generates electricity in a hybrid configuration that runs on biofuel or hydrogen. At the Japan Mobility Show last October, the Hiroshima-based firm also revealed the rotary-powered Iconic SP[4] concept coupe in which the rotary engine acts as a generator to charge the hybrid's battery pack.

Subaru will launch a new crossover powered by a new hybrid system.

Photo courtesy of Subaru

Subaru for its part, will further develop its signature horizontally-opposed boxer engine to run on an electrified hybrid system. CEO Atsushi Osaki has already revealed plans to launch a new hybrid system in the brand's Crosstrek and Forester models as an intermediary measure to create a range of eight EV models by 2028.

Toyota and its two 'multi-pathway' partners need these new power plants to clear new emissions regulations, especially as standards are expected to tighten in a few years, Nakajima said.

He went onto say that telling breakthroughs will come through fine-tuning thermal efficiency, a measure of how much of an engine's energy is channeled into turning the wheels as opposed to losing it in heat through the combustion process.

In this way, Toyota is also helping to maintain the heritage, integrity and signature engines--Mazda's rotary and Subaru's Boxer--of two of Japan's most unique car companies as industry pressure builds forcing them to change with the times and lose their soul.


ForbesToyota Creates Ultra-Luxury Century Brand Above LexusBy Peter Lyon[5]


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  5. ^ ForbesToyota Creates Ultra-Luxury Century Brand Above LexusBy Peter Lyon (