We say the early bird gets the worm, but sometimes the late bird arrives just in time to find out the worm doesn’t taste as good as previously thought. Toyota Motor Corp., which took an early lead in the advanced vehicle market with the Prius, has lagged behind other brands when it comes to developing all-electric car options. Now it seems the delay has worked out in the company’s favor. Toyota recently announced that it will set aside plans for a worldwide rollout of its second EV, the eQ.

In 2010, Toyota hinted that its pure-electric eQ, a variant of the iQ minicar, would break all sorts of efficiency records and sell by the thousands. In two years, however, the company has watched multiple issues plague its major competition, the Chevy Volt and Nissan LEAF. Sensing that consumer demand for the eQ might not be as robust as expected, Toyota says it will instead release only about 100 eQ vehicles in the United States and Japan, and then scale back its development plans for EVs.

Toyota’s vice chairman told reporters the company sees many difficulties developing electric vehicles, especially given the limited market for electric cars. “The current capabilities of electric vehicles do not meet society’s needs, whether it may be the distance the cars can run, or the costs, or how it takes a long time to charge,” Toyota’s Vice Chairman Takeshis Uchiyamada told Reuters in Japan.

For now, it appears that the company will remain focused on its existing hybrid and plug-in hybrid options, like the newly expanded Prius family. Earlier this year, Toyota announced plans to release an accessory that will allow the Prius PHV plug-in hybrid to be used as a power generator in an emergency.

So far, Nissan and GM, both of which have invested heavily in their all-electric vehicle offerings, show no signs of adopting Toyota’s cautious approach.

Photo credit: Toyota/Autoguide