"Definitely here we need an EV in the future," Sawa said last week in an interview at the Shanghai auto show, where Lexus debuted its LM luxury van. "But I cannot say when or how."
China's strict emissions controls and mandates for electric vehicle credits are driving carmakers into EVs. And Lexus will also need them in Europe, where certain cities have strict EV requirements, Sawa said. Launch timing will hinge on the course of regulation, he added.
Toyota Motor Corp., and by extension Lexus, is a latecomer to the industry's pure EV push. Toyota instead continues to leverage the gasoline-electric hybrid technology it pioneered with its Prius. The Japanese manufacturer is now the world's biggest maker of hybrids.
But the Toyota brand will start selling an all-electric version of its C-HR subcompact crossover in China next year as part of a push to introduce "more than 10" battery electrics globally by 2025.
Lexus introduced its first hybrid in 2005 and now has 11 hybrid offerings worldwide. About 26 percent of the 698,330 vehicles it sold globally last year were gasoline-electric.
Lexus is working on plug-in hybrids and fuel cell vehicles in addition to EVs, Sawa noted. But plug-ins don't fulfill some regulatory requirements.
"It's a transition era," Sawa said. "We are studying several possibilities."