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Wednesday / 22 May 2024
HomeFeaturesHybrid Toyota cars coming to South Africa – Including a Hilux and Fortuner

Hybrid Toyota cars coming to South Africa – Including a Hilux and Fortuner

Toyota South Africa (TSAM) has an exciting few years ahead of it as it plans to integrate a variety of new-energy vehicles (NEV) into its catalogue in line with the automaker’s new global strategy.

This includes mild-hybrid (MHEV) variants of the Hilux and Fortuner, at least six traditional hybrids (HEV), three plug-in hybrids (PHEV), and two battery-electric vehicles (BEV).

While other car manufacturers are throwing all their weight behind one powertrain technology, generally BEVs, Toyota favours a multi-prong approach for the future of its business as it believes individual markets need tailor-made products and that mobility isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.

In a recent roundtable with local media, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at TSAM, Leon Theron, highlighted that there is still a place for internal combustion engines (ICE) in the subsidiary’s portfolio and there will be for a long time.

However, TSAM aims to cut emissions by 40% before 2026 across its entire operational chain including the Lexus and Hino sub-brands, and to have approximately 40% of its passenger car sales consist of NEVs.

In its pursuit of this goal, the company is shifting a large part of its focus to HEVs, PHEVs, and powertrain conversions over the next few years.

The way to go for South Africa

First up, local enthusiasts will be excited to hear that TSAM is bringing out a new Hilux and Fortuner in mild-hybrid guise in early 2024.

Unfortunately, it shared no specifics on these vehicles, but judging from other MHEV setups on the market, they probably won’t be too groundbreaking.

Usually, a mild-hybrid consists of the standard ICE mated with an integrated starter generator and 12-48V battery which offer a few notable benefits.

Fuel savings and smoother acceleration are generally the main goal for MHEVs as the electrical system fills in some of the ICE’s power gaps from a standstill and offers partial regenerative braking.

In the HEV sphere, TSAM has planned the introduction of the new Crown, the first “global model” of the Crown nameplate, in 2023. This particular range has been a Japan-exclusive since 1955 but will now be making its way to other markets including ours in several body styles.

South Africa is getting the crossover variant driven by a 2.5-litre, parallel-hybrid drivetrain with an output in the neighbourhood of 170kW and a fuel consumption of under 5.0l/100km.

The second HEV that is on the way, judging from the Toyota teaser image above, is a semi-electrified version of the new Urban Cruiser.

This would make a lot of sense seeing as the co-developed Suzuki Grand Vitara also recently made its debut in the country and brought with it Suzuki’s first hybridised powertrain.

This took the form of a 1.5-litre, mild-hybrid configuration, and it remains to be seen whether Toyota will utilise the same drive unit or install a different one into its Urban Cruiser.

TSAM also said it has seen a significant rise in demand for HEVs in the compact-car segment and that it has a few products lined up to satiate this hunger.

Again, no names were shared but we do know that a minimum of four Toyota-badged HEVs are scheduled to launch in the various small-car categories over the coming years.

Additionally, with battery prices continually coming down and HEV sales volumes picking up, TSAM said they will become a lot more “cost competitive” in the near future.

Plug-in hybrids, TSAM believes, are the ideal solution for South Africa’s unique circumstances, and it therefore has three PHEVs in the pipeline.

There are no launch dates set in stone just yet, but we do know that the RAV4 and Lexus NX and RX are on their way in plug-in guise.

The RAV4 is currently being tested on local roads by media and dealers alike with a 2.5-litre petrol engine combined with an electric motor on each axle powered by an 18.1kWh battery.

Altogether, the drivetrain generates 225kW, returns a claimed fuel consumption of 1.15l/100km, and provides an EV-only range of 80km at speeds of up to 135km/h.

Theron calls PHEVs “the way to go for South Africa” as they bring the best of both worlds – which is being able to use them as BEVs during your weekly commutes and long-distance vehicles over the weekend.

The all-electric range of Toyota and Lexus PHEVs is also set to increase to over 200km in the near future to create what the automaker calls “practical BEVs.”

The main hurdle standing in the way of more immediate PHEV introductions is price since you’re essentially paying for two engines in one body. However, Theron said TSAM has a team that is actively trying to figure out where it can reduce costs to make the RAV4’s launch price “just right” for South African buyers.

Finally, there is at least one, possibly two BEVs scheduled for a South African launch from 2025 onwards.

The one that is confirmed is the new bZ4X– Toyota’s first fully-electric model.

Depending on the region, the bZ4X is offered in front-wheel-drive (FWD) and all-wheel-drive (AWD) specifications, each equipped with a 71.4kWh lithium-ion battery.

The FWD version generates 150kW allowing for a 0-100km/h time of 8.4 seconds and a maximum driving range of 500 kilometres.

The AWD derivative, on the other hand, makes do with an 80kW motor on each axle for an overall output of 160kW. This accomplishes the 0-100km/h sprint in a quicker 7.7 seconds, but results in a lower range of 460km.

The name of the other incoming BEV must still be confirmed, but if the silhouette of the teaser image is anything to go by, it could be a pure battery-powered RAV4.

Theron further said that the new NEV-focused strategy will open up a lot more opportunities in the after-sales segment.

One of these is the possibility of ICE-to-hydrogen or ICE-to-e-fuel conversions.

Toyota wants to make it possible for owners of its current vehicles to take them to dealers and convert them to run on hydrogen or cabon-neutral e-fuels, thus allowing them to continue enjoying their ride without selling it and buying another one they don’t particularly want just because it’s friendlier to the environment.

Toyota Japan is currently trialing these conversion technologies in a Corolla race car, in which it only changed the ICE model’s injectors, tank, fuel lines, and ECU for it to run on hydrogen, with the knowledge gained in this endeavour inevitably trickling down to production vehicles.

Theron also said going all-electric is one of the last things on Toyota’s mind, specifically because of after-sales potential, its dealer network, and the needs of local consumers.

He warned that if TSAM switches exclusively to BEVs and discards all the rest, its dealer network will lose up to 70% in after-sales revenue since BEVs have significantly lower running costs than just about any other propulsion technology.

Additionally, BEVs aren’t feasible on the African continent where there are vast open spaces of wilderness and electricity crises in many of the countries. Consequently, hydrogen, carbon-neutral fuels, and hybrid conversions will be better solutions for these customers.

With regards to FCEVs, TSAM currently has a second-generation Mirai on local soil doing feasibility studies, but it’s unlikely to go on sale any time soon.

Theron said Toyota sees fuel cells as being better suited for heavy commercial vehicles due to the powertrains’ sheer size and weight, so that’s where the organisation plans to implement FCEVs going forward.

More innovation taking place in the commercial space is the testing of a hybrid Hino 300 in Japan, with the rollout of the production version of this truck expected to happen within the next two years, said Theron.

Unfortunately, the increased demand and supply of NEVs around the globe, not just from Toyota but from all car brands, does necessitate more intense mining of rare earth materials for components such as batteries and microchips.

Toyota is acutely aware of this fact, and it has guided the company to first invest in HEVs and PHEVs before spending too much on BEVs.

It noted that the materials for one BEV can be shared among six PHEVs or up to 99 HEVs. Therefore, it will rather share fewer benefits of NEVs with a larger group of buyers than give one owner all the good stuff while others are getting all the bad stuff.

Thinking ahead, Toyota already has a recycling strategy in place for its existing HEVs and said that, for upcoming NEVs, it will build them in such a way that at the end of their usable life, they will be easily disassemblable and recyclable.

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