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Where are Toyota Australia's full-electric cars?

Toyota’s RAV4 is available in PHEV form overseas, but where is the full-electric version?

It might seem like Toyota Australia is betting big on the future of hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) at the cost of plug-in battery electric vehicles (BEVs), but the Japanese brand promises something is coming to rival the likes of the Nissan Leaf, Hyundai Kona Electric, Kia EV6 and Tesla Model S.

Last week, Toyota Australia opened Victoria’s first hydrogen refuelling station to service its fleet of 20 second-generation Mirai FCEVs, but, in early 2021, the brand still doesn’t count any BEVs (or even plug-ins) in its current range.

Speaking to media, Toyota Australia boss Matthew Callachor said the road is leading to a BEV, now that petrol-electric hybrids have been established across most of the brand’s models, heralded by the Prius nearly 20 years ago.

“We have the hybrids, it’s got a battery in it, so that’s the first step,” he said. “And I think the thing with hybrid … is that it’s affordable technology which offers substantial benefits in terms of pricing, fuel economy and CO2 emissions.

“At the moment, the battery electric [vehicle], if you look at the price, it’s still quite high, and so from that viewpoint, we’re actually going to bring in battery electric … but we’re going to do it step-by-step.”

What Toyota Australia’s first BEV will be is still currently unclear, but the brand remains committed to the Prius despite a hybrid powertrain now available in the Corolla, Camry, RAV4, Yaris and Yaris Cross.

Overseas, a plug-in hybrid version of the Prius is available, as well as a RAV4 PHEV, but they would only be another half-step towards a full BEV.

More likely however, is the EV that will be spawn from Toyota’s tie-up with Subaru.

It is rumoured that the new model will be a mid-size SUV to take on the likes of the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6, with Subaru reportedly opting to christen its version Evoltis.

Both Toyota and Subaru models will be built on the former’s e-TNGA platform though, and is expected to be revealed sometime this year.

Toyota’s Lexus luxury brand meanwhile, has already confirmed that its first all-electric model will be the UX300e, a small SUV with a 150kW/300Nm electric motor and 54.3kWh battery for around 400km of driving range.

The UX300e is already confirmed to launch in November this year to coincide with the Melbourne Cup Carnival.

Mr Callachor said the introduction of the Mirai doesn’t mean Toyota will take its focus away from battery electric, but that the two emerging engine technologies will sit side-by-side each other.

“We’re not saying it’s only hydrogen or battery electric, what we’re into is offering options in both categories in terms of moving forward, but this is certainly our first serious step into the hydrogen area of automotive,” he said.

Mr Callchor is also acutely aware of Australia’s unique geography that makes the full electrification of models such as the HiLux ute (Australia’s best-selling model) and LandCruiser off-road SUV difficult, but that solutions are being worked on.

“We have to look at the nature of Australia, we’re a large country and in terms of having specific vehicles to cater for specific requirements – famers with HiLuxes and LandCruisers physically need those vehicles,” he said.

“Will there be development in regards to batteries and hydrogen, or whatever the technology is? Yes, there will be into the future.”