Toyota still doesn't think electric cars are ready for mass consumption

Toyota's chairman said, 'Electric cars with a long range are very expensive and it takes a long time to charge them. Such cars do not fit in our program.'

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Battery-powered cars are not ready for mass production yet, the chairman of Japan's Toyota Motor Corp told a German magazine, adding that he did not see U.S. electric vehicle pioneer Tesla as a role model.

"Battery-powered cars with a long range are very expensive and it takes a long time to charge them," Takeshi Uchiyamada was quoted as saying by Der Spiegel. "Such cars do not fit in our program."

Toyota in September established a venture to develop electric vehicle technology with partner Mazda, seeking to catch up with rivals in an increasingly frenetic race to produce more battery-powered cars. Both automakers are somewhat behind their peers, with neither having a fully electric passenger car on the market yet. This contrasts with Tesla, which late on Thursday unveiled an electric heavy duty truck as well as a new roadster.

"Tesla is not our enemy and not our role model," Uchiyamada said. "I think it's the German manufacturers that rather see Tesla as a competitor."

BMW and Mercedes are betting they can mass produce new electric cars based on conventional vehicles, defying skeptics who say they will need more radical designs to head off the threat from Tesla and other start-up carmakers.

Uchiyamada said that Toyota was working on a new type of solid-state battery that is able to store more power and can be recharged much more quickly than current types.

"This technology will be a big development step. But that will still take time. We expect mass production in four to five years."

On Friday, Toyota and Suzuki Motor Corp said they had agreed to cooperate in selling electric vehicles in India from around 2020, aiming to give each other a leg up in emerging markets and in low-emission technology. (Reporting by Christoph Steitz; Editing by Hugh Lawson)