TOKYO--Two new challengers from Japan have joined the race for electric vehicles.
Subaru says it will start fleet sales of a four-seat electric car next year, and Toyota Motor Corp. for the first time has confirmed plans for a battery-powered offering in the early 2010s.
Both companies are stepping up the zero-emissions mantra as Japanese rivals Nissan Motor Co. and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. push ahead on what many see as the future of automobiles.
Nissan plans U.S.-fleet sales of an electric vehicle in 2010. Mitsubishi is eyeing a 2010 launch of its electric iMiEV in Japan, followed by Europe and the United States.
Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe announced the company's electric-vehicle plans last month at Toyota's annual business strategy meeting. Details were sparse, but R&D chief Masatami Takimoto said the car's range would be limited by the performance of today's batteries.
"For the time being, the most realistic approach is to use pure electric vehicles for short-distance travel," Takimoto said. "So in the early stage of the 2010s, we would like to offer a compact, very small electric vehicle on a small-scale basis."
Toyota has been testing its ultracompact E-com since 1999. But the bubble-shaped runabout seats only two, a load deemed impractical by most electric vehicle contenders.… Read more