Toyota boss explains his reluctance to go all out with electric vehicles

Although more and more major automakers are delving deep into the world of electric vehicles, Toyota remains cautious.

Toyota is among the world’s largest automakers and among the most profitable, although it has dragged its feet in the EV space, preferring to focus on hybrids as its primary solution to reducing emissions.

But even if governments propose, and in some cases confirm, plans to ban the sale of internal combustion engine vehicles, Toyota has no intention of betting on electric vehicles. That stance was echoed by Toyota President Akio Toyoda on Wednesday in a 60th anniversary speech in Thailand, where Toyota also unveiled an electric truck concept based on the Hilux Global mid-size pickup.

Toyota Hilux BEV concept

Toyota Hilux BEV concept

“I’m often criticized in the press for not explaining that the automotive industry should be 100 percent committed to BEVs,” he said. “I think we have to be realistic about when society will be able to fully adopt battery electric vehicles and when our infrastructure can support them on a large scale.”

Toyoda likened the EV rush to companies a few years ago and promised that by now we would all be driving around in self-driving cars. He said electric vehicles, like self-driving cars, will take longer to become mainstream than most experts claim.

He also said Toyota is not a company that takes a one-size-fits-all approach to its products and that there are alternative solutions to achieve carbon neutrality goals. At Toyota, some of these solutions include carbon-neutral synthetic fuels, hydrogen fuel cells, and even engines that burn hydrogen. Toyoda said he sees hydrogen as showing just as much promise in the fight against CO2 emissions as electric vehicles, particularly for the transportation industry, and that he recently drove a hydrogen-powered Yaris and was “blown away by its performance.”

Toyota Project Portal 2.0 truck with fuel cell drive

Toyota Project Portal 2.0 truck with fuel cell drive

Toyoda also mentioned the importance of reducing CO2 emissions throughout the production process and not just at the local level. He said this extends to sourcing materials, building cars, supplying fuel and car disposal.

“We need to remember that carbon is the real enemy, not any particular powertrain, and that we cannot achieve carbon neutrality alone,” he said. “It has to be a group effort and involve industries other than the automotive industry.”

Despite the attitude, Toyota will soon have one of the largest EV lineups available, spanning both the Toyota and Lexus brands. In the US, it currently only offers the Toyota bZ4X crossover, and Lexus will soon offer the RZ crossover. The automaker said a year ago it plans to have 30 electric vehicles available by 2030 and to sell around 3.5 million electric vehicles annually by the same date. For reference, the automaker sold around 10.5 million vehicles across its brands in 2021.

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