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Toyota studying electrification for HiAce

Total cost of ownership could see hybrids make their way into all-new Toyota HiAce

30 May 2019

TOYOTA Australia has said it is open to introducing hybrid powertrains into its just-released, sixth-generation HiAce van range, however the brand has stopped short of confirming any electrified variants for its new van.


The Japanese manufacturer has previously stated that it plans to offer an electrified variant in all of its ranges by 2025, as part of its Environmental Challenge 2050 announced in 2015.


Given that the outgoing fifth-generation model had a 15-year life cycle, an electrified version of the current generation seems a foregone conclusion, however what shape that will take is yet to be confirmed.


Speaking to journalists at the launch of the all-new HiAce in Melbourne, Toyota Motor Corporation HiAce chief engineer Takuo Ishikawa confirmed that the all-new platform underpinning the van can support electrification and that the company was currently studying potential powertrain options.


The HiAce launches in Australia with the choice of the HiLux-derived 2.8-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine as well as a 3.5-litre petrol V6, the latter of which has already been hybridised.


A modified version of the 3.5-litre unit is found on the Lexus RX450h, which is mated to a 123kW electric motor for a combined output of 230kW and official combined fuel consumption of 5.7 litres per 100km.


Toyota Australia vice-president of sales and marketing Sean Hanley said the type of hybrid technology found on the RX450h would be best suited to a commercial vehicle like the HiAce.


“I’ve long believed that the most practical solution to electrification today – it may not be the endgame but today – is the hybrid offerings we have in petrol right now,” he said.


“That is no plug-in, it’s practical, it serves to reduce our CO2 footprint, it reduces fuel consumption, there’s no range anxiety, it’s proven technology, and you know what? It’s affordable.


“So, for today I believe that is the way to go, however Toyota has never ruled out plug-in hybrid, hybrid petrol, other hybrid powertrains, we’ve never ruled out fuel-cell electric vehicles, and of course we’ve never ruled out battery-electric vehicles.”


Mr Hanley added that Toyota has not yet developed a hybrid offering for the turbo-diesel engine, however if the brand plans to offer an electrified model across its entire range by 2025, it is likely that a hybrid version will be developed given that the 2.8-litre is one of the only powertrains offered on the HiLux, along with a 2.7-litre petrol and 2.4-litre turbo-diesel on select entry-level grades.


Given that Toyota sells approximately three quarters of its HiAces to business and fleet buyers, total cost of ownership is an important proposition, with Mr Hanley saying the company chooses not to focus on the recommended retail price of its van, but rather the whole-of life cost over a period of years.


Speaking to GoAuto earlier in the month, Chargefox CEO Marty Andrews predicted that fleet buyers will start preferencing electrified vehicles in a matter of years over their internal-combustion counterparts.


Chargefox, the company helping to launch a nationwide ultra-rapid EV charging network, has used market research such as a report from EV advisory service Energeia to base its claims on EV adoption.


“(The Energeia report) calls out two significant tipping points, the first one is, in two to three years, fleet buyers – half of new cars bought are bought by fleet buyers,” Mr Andrews said.


“Fleet buyers consider total cost of ownership, so it’s not just sticker price, it’s the running costs of the vehicle, and so in about two to three years the total cost of ownership of an EV will reach price parity for petrol vehicles.


“Fleet buyers are very economically driven, they will switch in droves to EVs.”


He added that private buyers are expected to make the switch around 2025 – the same that for Toyota’s electrification plan should be completed.

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