Akio Toyoda: All-EV plans are a threat to Japan

Japanese automakers, Toyoda said, will have little choice but to send production of such vehicles to the overseas markets where they are currently exported or end it entirely.

“This means that production of more than 8 million units would be lost, and the automotive industry could risk losing the majority of 5.5 million jobs,” Toyoda said. “If they say internal combustion engines are the enemy, we would not be able to produce almost any vehicles.”

Both in his role as industry spokesman and as Toyota president, Toyoda has been an outspoken, if somewhat solitary, voice for moderation and flexibility in the pursuit of carbon neutrality.

He argues the path should be adapted to specific conditions in each country, with more freedom on which technologies are used to get there, as long as they lead to an overall reduction in carbon emissions.

His pushback comes as U.S. lawmakers consider aggressive new incentives to spur Americans to buy full-electric vehicles, an initiative with some provisions that Toyota and Honda, two hybrid vehicle champions, have openly opposed.

Toyota maintains that hybrid vehicles still have significant contributions to make toward carbon neutrality, even though they are equipped with internal combustion engines. Hybrids are more affordable than EVs and can penetrate markets where charging infrastructure is nonexistent. Plus, technical improvements make hybrids continuously cleaner.

By Toyota’s calculations, the 18.1 million hybrid vehicles it has sold cumulatively over the years have had the same carbon dioxide reduction impact as if it had sold 5.5 million battery-electrics — a level no automaker has come close to achieving.

Meanwhile, from an economic standpoint, using hybrids as a bridge technology toward EVs and zero emissions can help lessen the blow to jobs that make parts for engines and transmissions.

To give internal combustion an extra lease on life, Toyota has even begun developing engines that burn compressed hydrogen like gasoline, but with next to no greenhouse gas emissions.

“In achieving carbon neutrality, the enemy is carbon dioxide, not internal combustion,” Toyoda said. “To reduce carbon dioxide emissions, it is necessary to have practical and sustainable initiatives that are in line with different situations in various countries and regions.”

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