Toyota defends and embraces hybrid strategy
Toyota Vice-President Shigeru Hayakawa takes up the cudgels for hybrid cars. According to Toyota, hybrid cars – HEV and PHEV – will still play a crucial role in reducing emissions in worldwide transport.
Hayakawa is, therefore, pointing at South-East Asia and Africa, where he sees a vital role for hybrids. He states that countries with a high average income and an adequate infrastructure, like Europe and the US, are ready to embrace the electric car.
But he also asks if this is true for South-East Asia or Africa. “Are these markets going to accept fully electric cars in the future? I don’t know, but in the near future, say in five, ten, or even twenty years, that will be very difficult.”
The markets in those regions will still be dependent on fossil fuels for quite a while. According to Hayakawa, they’re still reinforcing their infrastructure for these and don’t even think about an electric counterpart.
That’s why a hybrid car is easier to market and use there. And Hajakawa points at the fact that hybrid cars are also cheaper. “In that sense, they’re far more suitable at the moment for those regions under development,” the Toyota manager adds.
The Japanese number one gets a lot of criticism for its view that non-electric cars will continue to play a role in different car markets worldwide. Many competitors, also big ones like GM and Volkswagen, have already committed themselves to full electrification, although they usually add that their policy doesn’t include the entire world.
Hayakawa also objects: “People depict us as if we are against electric cars and obsessed by ICE vehicles. That’s totally incorrect. Before 2025, we will have seven different BEV models on the market.”
Nevertheless, Japanese carmakers like to stress that one has to look into all alternatives. Apart from hybrids, Toyota is also looking into hydrogen and fuel cells as possible solutions.
Together with Mazda, Toyota has made a statement in Japan recently. They will both be racing with cars driven by internal combustion engines fed with CO2-neutral fuels. They claim this as being an alternative to electric races.
This weekend, there will be a three-hour race in Okayama (West Japan) where a Toyota has an engine that burns hydrogen, and a Mazda will be riding on a special kind of biodiesel.
Car manufacturer Subaru intends to participate in next year’s event with an ICE running on synthetic fuel made of biomass. A majority of Japanese car manufacturers believe that a broad spectrum of drive systems can power the vehicles that have to make the car industry CO2-neutral in the future.
Of course, there are also concerns about the many jobs lost when ICE is banned. For example, Japan is one of the most important countries implied in manufacturing internal combustion engines. A lot of (very) small businesses are involved in making all kinds of parts for them.
Toyota also points out that traditional internal combustion engines only have to be adapted in small ways (fuel injection systems mainly) to make them run on hydrogen. Hence the race car demonstration.
No general agreement
For all these reasons, Toyota refused to sign the agreement – signed in the margin of COP26 by some 30 countries and regions and ten car manufacturers, among which Ford, GM, Daimler, Volvo, JLR, etc. – that all new cars sold all over the world should be zero-emission by 2040.
Of the big ones, the Japanese are not the only ones having refused. Also, BMW, Volkswagen, the Alliance Renault/Nissan/Mitsubishi, the Hyundai Group, and Stellantis didn’t sign.
On the other hand, the international energy agency (IEA) has pointed out that to keep global warming at around + 1,5°C, it will be necessary to phase out ICE vehicles by 2035. So, there are still some severe discussions in the offing.