“Not Everyone Should Drive A Battery Electric Car,” Claims Toyota Chief Scientist

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If you are the chief scientist for an automaker run by someone who pooh-poohs electric cars, you parrot the party line promulgated by the boss or you go work somewhere else. At the Reuters Events Automotive Summit last week, Gill Pratt, chief scientist for Toyota Motor Group, acknowledged that battery electric cars will play a significant role in reducing carbon emissions in the transportation sector, but cautioned that the world should adopt an “all of the above” strategy that includes good old fashioned self-charging hybrids and fuel cell powered vehicles.

Pratt said Toyota believes in “diversity of drivetrains” to give customers different ways to reduce carbon dioxide. “It’s not for us to predict which solution is the best or say only this will work.” He  added that government incentives should be aimed at reducing carbon emissions, not picking which car technology is the best way to achieve those goals. He was referencing proposed bans on internal combustion engines by a variety of national, state, and local governments.

Reuters adds that Toyota claims it plans to invest $13.5 billion through 2030 on EV batteries, but so far its plans to roll out new battery electric vehicles seem relatively modest compared with those of US automakers General Motors and Ford, which are spending around $30 billion each through 2025 to electrify more of their vehicle lines.

That’s being kind. What Toyota is really doing is the same thing the oil companies are doing — running as hard as they can against the wind to preserve their revenue stream. Its lip lock on fuel cell technology is just embarrassing. EV charging infrastructure is growing by leaps and bounds. Where are the hydrogen refueling stations? According to Statista, as of this year there are 134 in Japan, 90 in Europe, 48 in the US, 43 in South Korea, 39 in China, and 18 in France. All the rest of the world’s countries have less than 10. Good luck taking a road trip in your spiffy new Mirai!

As far as ordinary hybrids are concerned, they may get better fuel economy than a conventional car, but the emphasis here is on the word “fuel,” as in gasoline. Last we checked, gasoline creates carbon dioxide when it is burned, no matter how efficient an engine is. The gasoline engine in a Toyota Prius is a smidgen more than 50% efficient. An electric motor is 90% efficient or more. Advantage: electricity.

Akio Toyoda is on record as saying electric cars will destroy Japan’s economy. What kind of horse manure is he smoking? That’s like saying automobiles will destroy the US economy because wagon makers will all go out of business. Technological progress cares little about your narrow ass, Akio-san. You are either on the bus or off the bus.

Toyota joined the Trump maladministration in its lawsuit to prevent California from setting its own tailpipe emissions rules. It is actively lobbying the quislings in Congress to cut funding for Joe Biden’s electric car initiative. In other words, it is doing everything possible to be a bad corporate citizen in its unquenchable quest for profits. Let the seas rise, the heavens fall, and the frozen tundra turn into a bottomless quagmire just so long as Mr. Looney Tunes in Tokyo can continue selling his last century technology to the masses.

The above schtick is the same blather the fossil fuel and nuclear advocates trot out to disguise the fact that their technology is inferior. The world needs coal, gas, oil, and nuclear generators because, well, it has always had them since the age of electricity began and they have a God-given right to continue getting massive public subsidies because that’s the way it has always been.

Here’s a thought. Walk into your nearest Toyota dealership and ask to see their selection of battery electric cars. When they say they don’t have any right now, leave your contact information and ask them to get in touch when they do. If 100,000 or more people did that, maybe Akio Toyoda would get the message that his embrace of internal combustion engines is not what the public wants to hear. Companies who refuse to give customers what they want go out of business. Just ask Kodak and Nokia.

If Akio Toyoda wants to run his business into the ground, that’s his business. For the rest of us, our focus should be on supporting businesses that have the continued existence of humanity as a top priority.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."

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