Toyota has earned an image as one of the "greenest" car companies in the world.  Some may even consider them tops in the category.  But they are quickly falling behind as many other major automakers and small start up companies either have EVs on the roads or will have EVs on the roads well before Toyota releases its first EV in 2012.

Mitsubishi has the i-MiEV coming out next June.  Nissan has the much talked about LEAF coming next November.  Several small automakers such as Tesla have EVs on the roads today, but Toyota is coming late to the game.

This year, Toyota will release a few hundred plug-in Priuses but has no plans for an EV for 3 more years.

What is Toyota waiting for?  According to Toyota's executive vice president Masatami Takimote, "The time is not here.  Electric cars face many challenges.  To commercialize EVs, we need a battery that far exceeds current technology."

While others automakers are betting on the success of the EV, if Toyota turns out to be right then  competing automakers may have needlessly spent billions on technology that simply wasn't ready yet.

On the other hand, if EVs are an immediate success, Toyota's slow adoption could ward off buyers due to the company ignoring the demands of the customer.

Toyota is taking a risk by waiting on EVs, but they took a chance before on hybrids and it took years to pay off.  This time, rather than being leaders they are willing to watch the success or failure of their competitors. 

Will Toyota's choice pay off again?