Why Toyota and Mazda are teaming up to develop electric cars

Electric cars might be great for the environment, but they’re not actually that good for business right now. The technology is so new, that developing an electric car in 2017 will cost a huge amount in R&D spending alone – and many, smaller manufacturers just can’t afford it. That’s why Toyota and Mazda are now teaming up to build electric cars together.

Why Toyota and Mazda are teaming up to develop electric cars

According to Reuters, Mazda, who has sales are one eighth of Toyota’s, only has a research budget of 140 billion yen per year – compared to Toyota’s one trillion yen. The result? Mazda just isn’t able to produce an electric car with technology as refined as a BMW i3 or a Nissan Leaf, for example.1374492_leafrally_042

Toyota on the other hand is perfectly placed to enter the EV market, and has already committed to sustainable transport. Last year, the Japanese company said all of its new cars will have zero emissions by 2050, and it also opened an all-new division, specifically for developing electric vehicles.

While the move makes sense when you look at the current trends in the automotive world, it’s pretty interesting when you consider the technologies Toyota and Mazda are known for. Mazda has always been a champion of the rotary engine, an innovative petrol engine that doesn’t use cylinders and gives the driver a huge amount of power. It’s an interesting an hugely innovative design, but it’s always been known for a low efficency and higher emissions. Basically the opposite of electric power, then.

The move towards EVs is interesting for Toyota, too, because for the last few years it’s been pushing hydrogen fuel cell cars – not electric ones. Two years ago, I drove a hydrogen powered Toyota Mirai, and at the time it was clear  the company thought EVs were only for short distances – it was hydrogen that would replace petrol. Fast forward to 2017, and it looks like Toyota has changed its mind.

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