We have a history here at CleanTechnica of bashing Toyota for its obstinate refusal to embrace the EV revolution. While most European and Korean car companies are following in Tesla’s wake, Toyota (and Honda) have steadfastly clung to the notion that hydrogen fuel cell transportation is the wave of the future. Why is that? Every organization is a reflection of its leaders. In Toyota’s case, its outlook on the world is defined by Akio Toyoda, grandson of Kiichiro Toyoda who founded the company 70 years ago. Akio-san, who is the head of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association, is no fan of electric vehicles, as evidenced by his remarks at a news conference on December 17.
The Observer reports that he told the press on Thursday, “The current business model of the car industry is going to collapse,” if the auto industry shifts to building electric car s too quickly. He went on to say Japan would run out of electricity in the summertime if all cars were running on electric power. But wait, there’s more. Toyoda said Japan will need to upgrade its electricity infrastructure to support a 100 percent EV fleet and doing so will cost as much as $358 billion according to his estimate.
But he wasn’t done lashing out at what he thinks of as the idiocy of electric cars. “The more EVs we build, the worse carbon dioxide get. When politicians are out there saying, ‘Let’s get rid of all cars using gasoline,’ do they understand this?” The Japanese government has begun making noise about banning the sale of vehicles with gasoline and diesel engines by 2035, a move inspired by similar plans by the UK, the EU, and the state of California.
The reason why EVs will lead to a spike in emissions, he says, is that Japan derives most of its electricity from thermal-generating plants powered by coal and gas. This is the same tired argument the fossil fuel companies and their bought-and-paid-for supporters like the Heritage Foundation have been making for a decade, claiming that in places like West Virginia that depend on coal for their electricity, EVs actually increase air pollution.
Apparently, Toyoda has not heard of renewable energy or global heating and if he has, he doesn’t give a damn about either one. This drivel is from the head of one of the largest car companies in history. Little wonder, then, that Toyota is missing in action when it comes to the EV revolution and was a supporter of the Trump administration’s law suit against the state of California designed to force it to water down its auto emissions standards.
Toyota rocked the the automotive world 20 years ago when it introduced the Prius. Since then, it has applied its hybrid technology to many of its models, including some marketed under the Lexus brand. It is also a proponent of plug-in hybrid technology, culminating in its recently introduced RAV4 Prime, a compact SUV with 302 horsepower and all-wheel drive that sells for less than $40,000. However, it just can’t bring itself to commit to battery electric vehicles. Instead, it is fixated on fuel cell electric cars powered by hydrogen. If Akio Toyoda thinks upgrading Japan’s electricity infrastructure will be expensive, just wait until he finds out how much building a hydrogen economy will cost!
While Tesla plans to sell millions of electric cars in the next two years, Toyota says it won’t reach the one million mark in EV sales until 2030 at the earliest. Its entire electric vehicle strategy seems to involve waiting for new battery technologies, such as solid state batteries to be perfected, something that isn’t expected to happen until several years from now. Until then, it will content itself with ridiculous and misleading ad campaigns that call hybrids “self-charging electric cars,” as if they derive their electrons from moonbeams or pixie dust.
The world could really use the electric equivalent of the Toyota Corolla right about now — an efficient, affordable daily driver for the masses. But thanks to the ignorant thinking from the head of the company, such a car is not in the cards. When Toyota goes out of business in a few years, the arrogance of Akio Toyota will be the primary reason. Like so many other business leaders who drove companies like Xerox, Kodak, Blackberry, and Nokia into the ground, he refuses to look down the road and see the looming disaster heading his way.