Toyota has long been accused of being slow to react to the rise of fully electric vehicles, but the world’s biggest automaker sought to change that narrative at the Japan Mobility Show this week with an array of new EV concepts. But Toyota executives also revealed plans to enter the home charging and energy management business, much as many of its top competitors are doing.
“If we sell a battery EV, a charging system is required,” said Toyota board member and Executive Vice President Yoichi Miyazaki during a roundtable session with journalists in Tokyo. “In the house, the customer will want to have a charging system. So chargers will be a new product… the storage battery also will be our next [business] to grow. Based on that, we want to step into the energy ecosystem management business globally.”
Miyazaki alluded to the plan after being asked what impact the rise of EVs might have on Toyota’s global labor force. (EVs, which require fewer parts to build than internal combustion cars, are often cited as a potential future cause of auto industry job downsizing.) But Miyazaki said, essentially, that same labor force and supply chain could also be used to create new products.
“On the manufacturing side, we need to pursue production improvement, so that total labor headcount will be reduced,” Miyazaki said. “However, instead of that, we want to step into new areas of business, like I mentioned.”
Miyazaki’s remarks were reiterated later by Hiroki Nakajima, Toyota’s Chief Technology Officer, when he was asked how Toyota might work to bolster the charging infrastructure as part of its newfound battery EV push. Until now, Toyota hasn’t waded into that area much; it recently announced it would also switch to Tesla’s North American Charging Standard (NACS) plug on that continent, but hasn’t joined automakers like Stellantis, BMW and Hyundai in joining a new charging consortium here.
“The most important thing is, how can we provide the charging portion to the customer?” Nakajima said. “We’ve got to work with [dealers] to implement home charging as much as possible.”
The executives did not elaborate on exactly what form Toyota’s future charging systems will take. A Toyota North America spokesperson said the automaker has nothing yet to announce specifically.
But the plan would put Toyota in line with automakers like Tesla and General Motors, which have or are releasing home energy storage products, home Level 2 chargers or systems that manage bidirectional V2H (vehicle-to-home) charging systems. The ability to send energy from a parked car back into the electrical grid, or to power external devices and even an entire home, is widely seen as a key benefit of EVs. To date, Toyota has partnered with companies like ChargePoint for home charging solutions, but it has not released its own products.
Miyazaki’s comments about the impact of EVs on jobs – automakers and their related suppliers employ millions of people globally – is especially interesting coming from Toyota, a company that historically has tended to avoid layoffs even in economic downturns. Such a plan could depend on Toyota’s (and its suppliers’) ability to retrain certain workers to make different kinds of products and equipment. But those comments also come at a time when the American auto industry is embroiled in a labor dispute of its own, with workers anxious over an electric vehicle future that could include fewer manufacturing jobs.
Either way, the announcement could be seen as a plus for Toyota customers who have been waiting for the automaker to get serious about EVs. Indeed, one recent Yahoo Finance and Ipsos survey featured a majority of respondents expressing a desire for electric Toyotas, but their choices on that front have been extremely limited as of late. In North America, Toyota has one all-electric vehicle on sale today, the bZ4X crossover, but plans to sell 10 new battery-powered models by 2026.
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