TOKYO (Reuters) - Toyota Motor said on Tuesday it will expand the development of its gasoline-hybrid technology over the next five years to speed up the introduction of lower-emission engines in the face of stricter global emissions standards.
The announcement was the latest by the Japanese firm aimed at making cars "greener" as global automakers face tighter regulations in China, the United States and other regions that will require more environment-friendly cars in the coming years.
Toyota is also stepping up the development of longer-range battery-electric cars, in a shift from an earlier strategy of promoting hydrogen fuel-cell technology as the future of zero-emission vehicles.
"We need to take an aggressive approach to deal with changing regulations," Toshiyuki Mizushima, president of Toyota's powertrain division, told reporters at a briefing.
Toyota said it would expand personnel on its hybrid technology development team by 30% through 2021, by which time it aims to introduce 19 new lower-emission powertrain components made on its recently introduced common manufacturing platform.
By 2021, at least 60% of Toyota vehicles sold in Japan, the United States, Europe and China will feature new components which will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 15% or more compared with the average amount of emissions of vehicles sold in 2015, the automaker said.
Toyota's hybrid push comes as regulators require automakers to produce more electric cars, while hybrid technology, introduced in the Toyota Prius nearly 20 years ago, is increasingly considered as conventional technology.
But Mizushima said that hybrid technology would be key to developing more zero-emission vehicles.
"The core technology of plug-in hybrids and electric and fuel-cell vehicles is based on hybrid technology. By increasing our hybrid team, we can leverage new developments for use in electric powertrains," he said.
Toyota is speeding up the development of lower-emission cars, last month appointing President Akio Toyoda to lead a new electric car division to accelerate the development of battery-powered cars.
The automaker, which sells around 10 million vehicles a year, has pledged to reduce global average CO2 emissions of its new vehicles by around 90% by 2050.
Towards this end, Mizushima said that he expected the take-up of hybrid vehicles to increase, accounting for around 20% of Toyota's global annual vehicle sales by 2025, from around 10 percent now.
(Reporting by Naomi Tajitsu and Maki Shiraki; Editing by Christopher Cushing and Muralikumar Anantharaman)