Without any doubt, Toyota is considered one of the automotive market leaders, and of course, its CEO Akio Toyoda is one of the most successful businessmen in the world. He knows exactly what he is saying, and his company’s success is above anything.
Keeping this in mind, you should know that Toyota’s reliability, success and leadership are not coincidental. Toyota is spending a lot of money and time on R&D (research and development) to keep up with the latest technologies and to be the first to implement revolutionary ideas.
And one of the main points that have been heavily researched by the automotive giants extensively in the past 20 years, along with governmental support, is car emissions. This topic was the most researched in the industry, and multiple approaches were taken by the automakers to reduce car emissions. The most popular one is the all-electric, battery-powered vehicles.
Toyota has been known for rejecting this idea for many years and deciding to have a different approach to combat carbon emissions. Hybrid cars were the way to go. Toyota is the leader in this market. Toyota Prius is a true success story for the company that proved to reduce carbon emissions drastically.
Akio Toyoda, the CEO of Toyota Motor Corporation, criticized the battery electric vehicles many times. During a Toyota press event for CES 2020, Akio said: “The current business model of the car industry is going to collapse,” the Toyota president warned if the industry shifts to EVs rapidly.
He continued his criticism, and this time towards the infrastructure that is not ready for EVs: “Japan would run out of electricity in the summer if all cars were running on electric power.”
He then shifted towards the politicians and said: “The more EVs we build, the worse carbon dioxide gets…When politicians are out there saying, ‘Let’s get rid of all cars using gasoline,’ do they understand this?” He supported his argument with numbers showing that many countries are generating electricity by burning coal and natural gas, and charging EVs from these sources isn’t going to help the environment.
Moreover, Toyota refused to sign the Glasgow Declaration on Zero Emission Cars and Vans, which aims to put an end to fossil-fuel cars by 2040.
All these signs and many more make Toyota looks like an evil that doesn’t care for the environment, and what matters to it mostly is the money, sales, and defending its money-making machine, the internal combustion engines. But is this the truth?
After all, Toyota was the leader in the hybrid technology with its mass-produced Toyota Prius, which aims to reduce car carbon emissions. It also took it to the second level by supporting hydrogen fuel cell cars and producing them to have more zero-emissions cars.
So why is Toyota taking cautious steps towards battery electric cars? What if Toyota was right by not supporting EVs and being against the global policies supporting them?
Carbon is our Enemy, Not Combustion Engines!
On September 9, 2021, and at the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) press conference, Akio Toyoda was again in the position that he was in. He defended the internal combustion engines and defined his enemy clearly: “In pursuing carbon neutrality, carbon is our enemy, not the internal combustion engine. To reduce carbon, I believe there should be practical and sustainable solutions that fit the circumstances of each country and region.”
He supported his claims by showing a graph that clearly shows how Japan is leading the world toward a more clean environment by producing cars that reduced carbon emissions by 23% from 2001 to 2019 by implementing more hybrid cars and not completely ditching combustion engines.
Different Approaches that Suites All
Toyota is serious about reducing emissions produced by cars, but they are going against the singular mainstream approach that doesn’t fit all the world. The true innovation occurs when a corporation comes up with several answers for a single problem that affects the entire world.
Forcing everyone to buy an electric vehicle (EV) isn’t the best strategy for cutting carbon dioxide emissions. The greater the cost of EVs, the more important this becomes.
EVs are Expensive!
EVs are still considered expensive when compared to conventional combustion engine cars. This is especially true when it comes to low-income countries. For example, an “affordable” Nissan Leaf costs around $27,400 in the United States, a high-income country, according to World People Review, meaning that more of its population can buy EVs.
On the other hand, in countries like the Philippines or Thailand, which are considered to be middle to low-income countries, the price of the Nissan Leaf may reach $55,235. Those who rely on vehicles for their lives and companies are shocked by this sudden requirement to buy an expensive electric vehicle.
Infrastructure is Still a Barrier
In addition to being expensive, most middle-income countries lack a suitable charging infrastructure and rely mostly on fossil fuels for their electricity generation. This means that EVs will never reduce carbon emissions. It might just change its location. Instead of the cars releasing carbon emissions in the city and between the masses, we are pushing it more towards low-populated areas where the electricity generation plants are located.
A hydrogen combustion engine may make more sense for Toyota in the short to medium term until these nations construct a reliable charging network that relies mostly on clean sources. For example, when it comes to countries like Norway, where reliable charging infrastructure is combined with a power system powered by 98 percent renewable energy, EVs could make much more sense.
Toyota is Producing EVs
Toyota is proving once more that it is not absolutely against EVs. However, it is against the singular approach that is taking place in the industry.
About a month ago, Toyota launched its all-new battery-electric vehicle, the bZ4X BEV. The BZ4X was built from the ground up to be an electric crossover SUV.
This vehicle was developed with the help of Subaru, which has its own electric SUV, the Solterra, on the market today. Their engineering is the same, and their design is practically identical.
During the U.S. media debut of the 2022 Toyota bZ4X electric SUV, Toyoda said: “It is difficult to make everyone happy with a one-size-fits-all option.” This means that the company will try to offer as many lower-carbon options as possible globally. And, of course, using Toyota’s priorities, this means that the hybrids come first, then the plug-in hybrids come second, then the newly pure EVs third, and, of course, hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles as well.
Toyota is not against EVs, and that is clearly shown by its production of purely EVs. However, Toyota is trying to solve the carbon emissions problem with multiple approaches solution.
Perhaps Toyoda’s statement best describes what I’ve always wanted to be clear to the audience. Carbon dioxide emissions are the problem, not the internal combustion engine.
Climate change can’t be solved by relying just on one sort of technology. Even though Toyota’s hydrogen combustion engine, hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle, should be open to fresh ideas. Each technology has the place that best suits it, and what is important is that they are all reducing carbon emissions.
The future is unpredictable. It might be possible that EVs aren’t the future we hoped they would be. Toyota’s diversification will allow it to be more responsive to future demands while also addressing carbon neutrality much more quickly.