Longtime Toyota leader and grandson to the company’s founder, Akio Toyoda, revealed Thursday the company is working on its first electric GR sports car.
After the company fell behind early as the industry began adopting fully electric vehicles, Toyoda stepped down as CEO in January.
One of the most well-known critics of going all in on electric vehicles, Toyoda, said, “To advance change at Toyota, I have reached the decision that is best for me to support a new president while I become chairman.”
Many believed newly elected CEO and former Lexus chief branding officer Koji Sato would correct course and steer the company in the right direction. After taking over the reign, Sato revealed, “Now that the time is right, we will accelerate BEV development with a new approach.”
Although Sato is the new face of the company, Toyoda is still deeply involved. Toyota has revealed several new initiatives to boost EV development and production, including plans for a new dedicated platform and its first US-assembled electric car, a three-row SUV.
The company’s performance vehicle brand, Toyota Gazoo Racing (GR), is now developing its first fully electric sports cars, and Toyoda is personally involved in the development.
Toyota developing its first electric GR sports car
After placing second in the Le Mans 24 Hours behind Ferrari, Toyota’s chairman told Autocar the performance unit has already initiated testing on its first electric sports car.
Toyoda said the baseline expectations must be as good or better than current ICE vehicles such as the GR Supra or GR Yaris. He revealed:
I actually had the opportunity to test drive a BEV GR we are working on recently.
Although Toyoda doesn’t know if the car will make it to the market, he says the first priority is making it fun to drive.
To do so, he mentioned the EV would include a manual transmission and fake engine noise (although the smooth, quiet ride is one of the best parts of going electric). Toyoda went on to explain:
The biggest difference to other BEVs we are developing is that, when you are in the GR BEV, you can actually hear the engine noises, even if you can’t smell gasoline.
The news comes just days after Toyota revealed several new ambitious technologies to advance the company’s transition to EVs.
For example, Toyota revealed a timeline for its next-gen EV batteries, due out over the next several years. By 2027, the automaker wants to have two battery types, a performance and popularization version, to provide various options for buyers. The GR electric sports car may utilize the performance option.
The following year, Toyota plans to release solid-state EV batteries with over 600-700 miles range following a “technological breakthrough.”
More importantly, the news comes as several shareholders mentioned this week they planned to vote to remove Toyoda from the board over the company’s failure to set a date to go all-electric (Toyoda did end up getting re-elected, however).
We’ll see if Toyota’s electric sports car actually makes it to the market. The automaker has teased several bold new technologies in the past week that already seem to be a stretch, given the company’s track record on new releases.
On the other hand, it is good to see Toyota finally entertaining the idea of fully electric technology while dedicating resources to its development.
Toyota’s new leader has already sounded the alarm, saying the automaker needs to act urgently in China, the leading EV market globally. With every other key auto market going all-electric, when will Toyota?