Four flavours of electrification: Toyota’s eco line-up for 2020 and beyond

Published: 17 January 2020

► Toyota's big plan
► EVs finally arrive
► But so does stylish hydrogen power 

While car brands such as VW have gone all in electrification, Toyota and Lexus have taken a more varied approach: EVs are (finally) on the menu alongside plug-in and self-charging hybrids, but you'll also find the rather impressive-looking Mirai too. Keep reading for a breakdown of Toyota's multi-pronged, alternatively fuelled plans. 

Hydrogen fuel cell

The original Mirai was built to make a point: that hydrogen fuel cells can work on everyday road cars. Just as well it wasn’t built to sell well, because it hasn’t: the Mk1, introduced in 2014, has sauntered to 10,000 sales in all, about 1000 of them in Europe. Nobody blames Toyota – the problem is the scant provision of hydrogen refuelling stations.

The Mk2 has been designed to be good to drive as well as economical and clean-running, with water the only tailpipe emission from the combustion process. It’s also been designed to sell, if by some miracle the infrastructure gets upped soon. It looks more conventional and is lower than the Mk1 but is roomier than before, with room for five adults. 

The improved fuel cell system now uses three hydrogen tanks. It sits on the GA-L rear-drive platform, as used on the Lexus LS.

Read more about the new Toyota Mirai here

Battery electric

The first battery-electric Lexus is the UX300e, a version of the smallest Lexus SUV. It doesn’t arrive in production form until late this year or early 2021. 

The target is a range of around 185 miles, a top speed of 100mph and a 0-62mph time of 7.5 seconds. On a DC charger the 54kWh battery should reach 80 per cent full in 50 minutes. The driver can toggle between four levels of deceleration regeneration.

Although it’s the company’s first BEV, Toyota says its decades of hybrid know-how fed directly into the development of the UX300e’s motor, inverter, gears and battery.

Read more about the Lexus UX300e here

Plug-in hybrid

There have been two generations of Prius plug-in hybrid, and they’re now joined by a significantly quicker PHEV, a rapid new version of the RAV4. Combining a 2.5-litre petrol four with an electric motor fed by a bigger battery than the self-charging hybrid, the RAV4 PHEV has a 0-62mph time of 6.2 seconds and an electric-only range of about 40 miles. It can also go at up to 80mph in EV mode (but not for 40 miles).

It also gets a restyled nose, new wheels, new upholstery, and the biggest info screeen of any RAV4 at nine inches.

With us later this year, it’s the second most powerful car in the Toyota range, behind the Supra, and the third fastest, behind the Supra and the GR Yaris.

Read more about the new RAV4 hybrid here

Self-charging hybrid

Those old things? The bedrock of the Toyota and Lexus line-ups remains the non-plug-in hybrid – ever-evolving technology that’s now in its fourth generation. 

Newcomers include a much improved hybrid version of the 2020 Yaris (drive it in EV mode at up to 80mph), with increased responsiveness and more linear power delivery claimed from the 50 per cent more powerful petrol engine. There will also be a Yaris-based SUV, with all-wheel drive and hybrid power among the spec choices; expect that to be unveiled very soon.

And the current Corolla will soon be available with a largely cosmetic GR Sport makeover, with diferent wheels and grille, piano black accents, a new steering wheel and marginally friskier upholstery. You get a choice of estate or hatch bodies, and 1.8 or 2.0-litre hybrids.

By Colin Overland

CAR's managing editor: wordsmith, critic, purveyor of fine captions