Nissan and GM will start shipping their flagship electric cars—the Leaf and the Volt—next month. Toyota also recently unveiled a new version of its RAV4 electric SUV at the Los Angeles Auto Show. But unlike Nissan and GM, which have put considerable effort behind the marketing of their electric cars, Toyota has made it clear that it regards electric cars as niche vehicles, and is pinning its hopes on hybrids instead.
Toyota will make just 35 test versions RAV4s next year before rolling out a production version of the car to customers in 2012.
Carlos Ghosn, the CEO of Nissan and Renault, with which Nissan formed an alliance last year, has said that 10 percent of all models sold by these two companies will be electric by 2015 (about 820,000 vehicles, according to sales projections by J.D. Power). This will start with the electric Leaf, a car with a 73-mile range, according to the EPA. Nissan plans to introduce hybrids, but at nothing near these levels.
In contrast, Toyota says that by 2015, 10 percent of its cars will be hybrids, or about 990,000 units, based on sales projections. Toyota sells more hybrids than any other automaker. Toyota is focusing on hybrids in part because it knows the technology works (it has years of real-world testing with the Prius).