Zoom Prime: Toyota and Mazda Team Up for Electric-Vehicle Development
Amid ratcheted-up plans and global forecasts for electric vehicles, Toyota and Mazda are teaming up to develop EV technology.
A new venture by Toyota (90 percent), Mazda (5 percent), and supplier Denso (5 percent) aims to establish a shared architecture for electric vehicles—including common components “transcending differences in vehicle class and power.” The trio will develop “basic structural technologies for EVs covering a wide range of vehicle segments and types.” Although the release about the new organization, which was given the unglamorous name EV C.A. Spirit, doesn’t call out specifics, it suggests that the companies hope to develop a scalable battery system and a unified tool kit of motors, inverters, and control software—elements that are the very backbone of an electric car.
This builds neatly on a strategic partnership between Toyota and Mazda, formalized in 2015, that licenses Toyota’s hybrid technology to Mazda (for other markets) through at least 2020 and has the companies sharing costs for the Mexico plant that builds the Mazda CX-3 and the Toyota Yaris iA. The new EV venture might not hire many—if any—engineers, as the plan would involve a transfer of some full-time engineers from each company.
From Viability to Profitability
While falling battery costs and advancements in energy density have made electric cars a lot more viable in recent years, they’re not due to be a very significant portion of the market even well into the next decade. Thus, it makes a lot of sense to share development costs. The companies explain in their release that “the huge investments and time required to cover all markets and vehicle segments is a pressing issue for individual automakers when responding to the widely varying demand for vehicles around the world.”
U.S. Toyota spokesman Aaron Fowles said the company expects to “achieve innovative and efficient development of technology for basic structure and concepts for EVs” and that the companies involved in this project “plan to utilize this technology to respond rapidly to regulatory and market trends in each country.”
It isn’t the only project that Mazda and Toyota have embarked on together recently; they’re also in the midst of choosing a U.S. location for a mammoth $1.6 billion joint-venture assembly plant that will employ 4000 workers. A Toyota Motor Sales spokesman emphasized that these two projects are unrelated.
Given Toyota’s finances, hybrid smarts, and engineering resources and Mazda’s prowess with design, dynamics, and innovative ideas (despite its small size), we could see this partnership—to borrow a tagline or two—zooming and going places.