Toyota has been a laggard when it comes to embracing the electric revolution, but the Japanese automaker has realized just how far behind they are after performing a teardown of the best selling electric vehicle, the Tesla Model Y.
In a changing of the guards Toyota announced last month the current CEO Akio Toyoda will be stepping aside from his role effective April 1st, replaced by Koji Sato who currently heads the Lexus and Gazoo Racing divisions. Sato will have his work cut out for him as Toyota races to develop their own EV platform and production lines, after bumbling the launch of their first dedicated EV, the Toyota bZ4X, which is built on the same production lines as gasoline-electric hybrids and a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle.
To get a better understanding of the competition, Toyota recently got their hands on a Giga Texas-built Model Y and broke it down piece by piece. According to one Toyota executive who was involved in the teardown that spoke anonymously with Automotive News, the electric SUV is a “truly a work of art,” adding that the electric SUV “unbelievable.”
Part of what makes it unbelievable is not only its simplicity, but also Tesla’s advanced manufacturing capabilities, which is undoubtedly a tough pill for Toyota to swallow as they have long been considered one of the leaders in that area.
Tesla’s single piece front and rear casting, paired with a structural battery pack eliminated up to 220lbs, boosted its range, but more importantly made the vehicle cheaper to produce, according to the executives involved in the project. Even small things such as the powertrain cooling hose surprised Toyota, which Tesla shrunk from 3.5mm to 1.5mm while at the same time using a cheaper material to produce them.
“It’s a whole different manufacturing philosophy. We need a new platform designed as a blank-sheet EV,” said the executives.
Then of course there is battery technology and software, both of which Toyota has long way to go before they can compete with the likes of Tesla. “We cannot immediately compete in terms of cost of manufacturing and batteries with companies such as Tesla or BYD,” said one Toyota executive.
The road is long for Toyota. They only expect to begin production of an electric SUV at their plant in Kentucky by 2025, with the eventual goal of producing 1 million EVs per year by 2026. Tesla came within inches of accomplishing that feat in 2021, building on that success to deliver over 1.3 million EVs last year.