Hybrid Hilux must happen

Toyota Hilux 5

Toyota's 2030 promise, means more battery power, for your bakkie.

The Shanghai auto show has brought some big reveals, but also caution, regarding electrification.

As the world attempts to ease out of lockdown and return to some semblance of normalizing production and the product introduction schedule, there has been much relief at Shanghai.

But for Toyota, despite the reveal of its new electric vehicle, the theme remains cautious.

The promise of a solid-state battery breakthrough remains largely unrealized, and Toyota has now indicated that its fleet-wide electrification targets are unreachable. A deadline of 2025 was scheduled to have every single Toyota model available with an electric or hybrid drivetrain option, but this is clearly not going to happen, especially as it appears the bakkie and van business will need more time to develop the tech.

Toyota has recommitted to a new deadline, in 2030. Realism is meeting expectation in the rush to appease policy makers and environmental campaigners with electric vehicles, and many of the pre-pandemic promises, are not deliverable.

For Toyota, its commercial fleet is a problem. Electrifying passenger and traditional luxury vehicle platforms should not be too complicated, but the profitable bakkie and van product portfolio will require a complete rethink. With new platforms and expensive technology integration.

Hilux is one of Toyota’s most popular global vehicles and a strong source of profits for the Japanese company. An electric Hilux is very unlikely, even in the medium term. But Toyota will have to bring some form of alternative energy to the bakkie’s powertrain, whether it will be hybrid or hydrogen is unclear.

The most obvious solution is to produce a diesel-electric hybrid. But this will surely inflate the price and add parts complexity for dealers, increasing the serviceability burden on what will surely be a low-volume Hilux derivative.

Engineering a hybrid vehicle to cope with rugged off-road conditions and thousands of kilometres on corrugated dirt roads, in warm and dusty conditions, are all part of the challenges for Toyota’s 2030 goal. It will probably take the best part of the 9 years left in its target before we see a hybrid Hilux on the world stage, and probably even longer before we see it come to SA.

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