While the rest of the automotive industry rushes pell-mell to declare when which companies will cease making internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, Toyota has refrained from joining the bandwagon.

Compared to Toyota, everyone else with skin in the game has motion that ranges from slow and steady to frantic. General Motors plans to go all-electric by 2035 with Ford and Volvo planning to do by 2030. Others are more assertive. Hyundai plans 23 battery-electric vehicles by 2025; Kia plans 11 EVs by 2026; Nissan plans eight new EVs by the end of 2023. Honda has two EVs planned, one for Acura and the other for itself, both by 2024. Mini will introduce its final gasoline-powered car in 2025, with half of its total sales from electric vehicles by 2027 and it plans to stop selling ICE-powered cars by 2030.

As recently as 2019, Toyota officials said there was “no demand” for EVs at U.S. dealerships. The company’s latest projection that only 15 percent of their U.S. sales will be of electric vehicles (EVs) in 2030 is completely counter to everyone else. What does Toyota know that the rest of the world doesn’t?

As for why Toyota has waited as long as it has to enter the EV market, Andrea Carlucci, director of product and marketing for Toyota Europe said that the company’s hybrid technology has allowed the company to comply with tough emissions standards in Europe without jumping too early into EVs,  

“However, hybrid success has given us the foundation we need, for other electrified powertrains – which will be introduced when the time, the market and the infrastructure are right. And that time is getting closer,” he said in last December’s issue of Car and Driver.

In the United States, the Prius and lately, the Mirai, are the reason why Toyota has a solid foundation. Believe it or not, the Prius has been on sale here for more than 20 years. As of 2018, Toyota has sold almost 1.8 million copies of the car in the US. Meanwhile, the Mirai is Toyota’s mid-sized hydrogen fuel cell vehicle (FCV). The first models were sold here in November 2015. Through 2020, 6,645 examples of the car have been sold in the US. NBC Sports highlighted the car during its April coverage of the TYR Pro Swim series in Mission Viejo, California. Athletes were given examples to use during the four-day event. The Mirai represents more than 80 percent of the FCVs on the road here.

According to Green Car Reports, globally, Toyota plans to cumulatively sell about eight million electrified vehicles by 2030, of which two million will be either battery electric models or FCVs. In 2020, the company sold roughly nine million vehicles globally. 

In the U.S., Toyota says that electrified vehicles will make up 70 percent of sales by 2030, the majority of which will be hybrids. Battery electric models and FCVs combined, will make up 15 percent of U.S. sales by 2030, according to the company. It’s interesting to note that even by 2030, Toyota sees models with an internal combustion engine under the hood making up 85 percent of its U.S. sales at the end of the decade—and that 30 percent of its U.S. lineup won’t have any form of electrification.

Under California’s Advanced Clean Cars II framework, proposed during the first week of May, desire an outcome of 60 percent of new light vehicle sales being zero emission vehicles (ZEVs) in 2030. That includes 12 percent plug-in hybrids and nearly 48 percent batter electrics. Under the proposal, automakers would not be able satisfy more than 20 percent of ZEV obligations in any given year. Of course, Toyota could see fit to cover its small percentage of EV with FCVs.

Toyota’s underscoring the flexibility part. “Although some people believe concentrating resources on one possible solution will achieve the goal more quickly, we believe investing in many different solutions will actually be a faster way to achieve carbon neutrality around the world,” said Toyota Motor North America chief administrative officer Chris Reynolds in a media release. 

Several automakers—including Ford and Volkswagen—have made comments that we’re already at a sort of tipping point for electric vehicles, and that EVs are worth pushing nationally, versus gasoline models. But Toyota clearly doesn’t believe we’re there yet. “The company’s approach seeks steady and substantial carbon reductions every year until the recharging infrastructure and costs of BEVs make them an attractive, affordable choice for all consumers everywhere,” it said.  

Summation: Toyota isn’t planning to build any more EVs than it’s required for compliance. If it truly sees only 15 percent of its lineup fully electric, other states outside of California’s emissions bubble aren’t going to see many EVs.

Just like a strong stock portfolio, Toyota believes that diversifying in multiple solutions to a problem is preferable to concentrating resources on one possible solution.

“At Toyota, we believe giving consumers choices with a portfolio of alternative powertrains can help bridge to an all-electric mobility future,” the company said in its announcement posted on cnet.com in mid-May. The key word here is “choices,” noting hybrids will help build an electrified bridge to full-blown EVs at the automaker.