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Scion iQ EV at the Paris auto show. (Michael Bettencourt for The Globe and Mail)
Scion iQ EV at the Paris auto show. (Michael Bettencourt for The Globe and Mail)

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Toyota short-circuits electric iQ Add to ...

Toyota has killed plans to offer an electric version of its Scion iQ city car in Canada, in order to accelerate its push of hybrid vehicles.

This means the green car pioneer will not offer any fully electric zero emissions vehicle in this country in the foreseeable future. This comes even as BMW, Mercedes-Benz (Smart), and GM all plan to add to current gas-free offerings from Ford, Nissan, Tesla and Mitsubishi.

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The irony was there for all to see just days prior to the opening of the Paris auto show, where the production version of the electric version of its iQ minicar was set to make its public debut. But Takeshi Uchiyamada, Toyota’s head of vehicle development, said just before the show’s launch that its announced plans to produce thousands of the silent two-seat commuters around the globe would effectively be cancelled. Only 100 iQ EV models, or eQ models, would become available for sale in the U.S. and Japan, he said, which allows the company to say it hasn’t cancelled the program entirely.

To an engineer who had overcome many internal and technological battles to pioneer the original Toyota Prius, which debuted in 1997, and has become known as the “father of the Prius,” it was a statement of non-confidence in pure electric vehicles – at least as costs, battery technology and charging infrastructure lie today.

But perhaps more notably, it was the rare public admittal that Toyota couldn’t crack this particular technological green car puzzle, at least not yet. Toyota executives have long been clear that it is aiming to sell more low-emissions gas-electric hybrid vehicles, rather than relatively limited numbers of zero-emissions ones. Which appears to be a fiscally sound if now conservative corporate strategy, especially next to the ambitious EV plans of Nissan and Tesla to pull zero (local) emissions vehicles – and buyers – slowly but surely into the mainstream car market.

“With over four million hybrids sold worldwide, Toyota continues to focus on hybrid technology as the proven platform for current and future technologies,” a statement from Toyota Canada said. “While we won’t be bringing the iQ EV, we continue to study the market potential for future products.”

Toyota Canada now won’t offer either the iQ EV, nor the RAV4 EV, which is built in Cambridge, Ont. It also wouldn’t comment on how this decision affects plans to bring a fuel cell electric vehicle to market in 2015.

In effect, Toyota has gone from a green car pioneer to a green car laggard, at least based on who offers the cleanest, least emitting new passenger vehicles in this country.

Toyota still sells the vast majority of hybrid vehicles, in Canada and around the world, and can thus reasonably argue that the firm has prevented more emissions over the past decade than all EV sales combined. Uchiyamada said it plans to have 21 new hybrids on sale by 2015, 14 of them all-new.

With hybrids, plug-in hybrids, battery EVs and soon (perhaps) fuel cell electric vehicles all promising different paths to a cleaner environmental future and – more critically for car makers – help to meet tougher emissions standards around the world, it’s starting to become obvious that not all companies will seriously pursue all paths.

SiriusXM to launch new apps

SiriusXM Canada is introducing more PVR-like features to its Internet Radio and mobile apps, in an effort to extend satellite radio’s appeal beyond in-car entertainment and increasingly towards smartphone, tablet and home internet radio users.

The company announced this week that it is offering an On Demand function as part of its service that allows listeners to access more than 200 shows from various entertainment, comedy, sports and music channels. The updated Android and Apple iOS apps allow for better sound quality and faster streaming, with plans to include the ability to access the shows over WiFi networks in the near future.

Other new app capabilities include a new programming guide that lists what’s on over the next week, a “Start Now” feature that allows subscribers to go back up to five hours to hear previously broadcast content, a “Tune Start” feature that allows any listener to hear any song from the very beginning, and the ability to pause live radio – as when a call comes in – and then pick up where it left off.

The Internet Radio service tacks on $4/month to a Sirius/XM subscription, which starts at $15.99 per month.

Ontario, Quebec start planning for EV charging corridor

Planning has started on a public charger network that would allow cross-border travel for plug-in vehicles between Ontario and Quebec, in a collaboration announced by non-profit group Plug’n Drive Ontario and Hydro-Quebec, which has already established an Electric Circuit network in that province.

The two parties will identify the first areas to be served, find potential private or public partners and assess the obstacles to an infrastructure roll-out.

“To allow these drivers to travel more easily between Quebec and Ontario, we must find solutions quickly,” said Pierre-Luc Desgagné, senior director of strategic planning at Hydro-Québec, which charges a flat $2.50 to connect to the EC network of 240V chargers.

“This project will not only provide an infrastructure link between Ontario and Quebec, but establish a business model upon which future public charging networks in other jurisdictions can be based,” said Cara Clairman, president and CEO of Plug’n Drive.

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