In a bid to accelerate development of a broad range of environmentally friendly vehicles, Toyota is set to create a huge new new research and development centre in Japan – its first vehicle testing site in the country since opening one in Hokkaido in 1984 – according to Nikkei Asian Review.

The facility will be built on an vast tract of land measuring around 6.5 square kilometres, secured in the company’s home prefecture in Aichi, with total investments expected to hit 300 billion yen (RM11 billion). Slated to be partially open as early as next year – with full operations to commence in 2023 – the R&D hub will feature 11 test tracks designed to replicate various driving conditions around the world.

One of them will be partly modelled after the Nürburgring and will be used to test steering and braking stability as well as other functions of the car in harsh driving conditions. The 5.3 km circuit will incorporate mountainous roads featuring plenty of twists and turns and an elevation change of 75 metres.

Toyota will reassign engineers and other employees from its headquarters and other locations to the new R&D centre. A total of between 3,200 and 3,300 staff members are expected to be stationed there when the site goes into full operation, with an eventual target of 3,850.

At an event last week, Toyota executive vice president Shigeki Terashi said that the project will “contribute to accelerate research and development for a motorized society in the future.” The company aims to increase annual sales of electrified vehicles – including hybrids, plug-in hybrids, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and battery electric vehicles – to at least 5.5 million units by 2030.

The facility is also intended to help Toyota meet regulations and the needs of consumers around the world, including in emerging markets like China and India. The company plans to continue using its Hokkaido site for cold weather driving tests, and reserve existing sites in Shizouka for next-generation technologies.

Toyota’s total R&D and capital spending is estimated at 2.34 trillion yen (RM85 billion) for the current financial year ending in March, a figure that has increased 40% in five years. The company has collaborated with Mazda and Denso on electric vehicle technology, and has set up the Toyota Research Institute (TRI) in the United States to advance its artificial intelligence tech for autonomous vehicles.