Automakers Continue To Lobby For Global Heating, Against EVs

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We’ve turned a big corner when it comes to electrification of the auto industry. Just 5–10 years ago, automakers were largely laughing at electric cars, slow-walking the transition, and had modest electrification plans. That changed with the anticipation for and arrival of the Tesla Model 3, EU regulations requiring than automakers actually sell EVs (which automakers unsuccessfully tried to get watered down), and China’s booming EV market. Automakers started announcing big plans for electric vehicle sales and new electric vehicle models. Nonetheless, despite all of that, every automaker continues to lobby against EVs, and thus against efforts to stop runaway global heating.

“New InfluenceMap analysis finds that negative lobbying by the world’s largest automakers is putting global climate targets at risk and threatening the transition to electric vehicles,” the nonprofit think tank InfluenceMap writes. “This report analyses the climate policy engagement strategies of fifteen of the largest global automakers in seven key regions (Australia, EU, Japan, India, South Korea, UK, US). It shows how even in countries where major climate legislation has recently passed, such as the US and Australia, the ambition of these policies has been weakened due to industry pressure.”

The organization found that every one of those automakers except Tesla “actively advocated against at least one policy promoting electric vehicles.” (It’s noteworthy that even Elon Musk has spoken out against some EV subsidies and policies, ironically, but I guess that is best classified as “illogical behavior” rather than “actively advocating” against something.

Most concerning of all is that most of these automakers are not just engaged in small anti-EV efforts but are quite heavily lobbying against them.

Graphic courtesy of InfluenceMap.

“Ten of the fifteen showed a particularly high intensity of negative engagement and scored a final grade of D or D+ by InfluenceMap’s methodology. Toyota is the lowest-scoring company in this analysis, driving opposition to climate regulations promoting battery electric vehicles in multiple regions, including the US, Australia and UK. Of all automakers analyzed, only Tesla (scoring B) is found to have positive climate advocacy aligned with science-based policy.” It’s no surprise Toyota is highlighted. The company watered down EV policies in the US, got busted for deceptive marketing around “self-charging” electric vehicles and the like, and has been one of the biggest footdraggers in the transition to full electric vehicles — maybe the biggest. The company led on hybrid vehicles (and still does), so it’s actually not surprising that it has been opposed to the next stage of climate-cutting auto evolution — it’s clinging on to its lead rather than continuing to innovate for a new era. Nonetheless, at this stage, it’s really ridiculous that Toyota is carrying on this way.

Overall, Japanese automakers are bottom of the pile in this EV rating (as they are in many). “InfluenceMap’s report also finds that Japanese automakers are the least prepared for an electric vehicle transition and are engaging the hardest against it. The three lowest-scoring automakers by climate policy engagement are all Japanese (Toyota, Suzuki and Mazda), with global advocacy strategies promoting policies to lock in a longer-term role for ICE-powered vehicles, including hybrids. The four companies with the lowest forecast electric vehicle production in 2030 were also all from Japan — Suzuki at 10%, Honda at 24%, Toyota at 29% and Mazda at 30%.” One has to attribute this in part to the hybrid focus noted above and in part to a government and Japanese auto industry obsession with hydrogen-powered vehicles (a hydrogen fool’s errand).

InfluenceMap highlights that these anti-EV efforts in the industry are often coming from industry associations rather than coming directly from automakers, shielding them a bit from inevitable publish backlash. (It just doesn’t look good to be the automotive face of pro–global heating efforts.) For example, Down Under, it’s the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) that intensely advocated against Australia’s New Vehicle Efficiency Standards. And it was apparently effective, getting the 2029 reduction in emissions estimate down from 60% to 50%. Over here in the US, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation has been doing similar lobbying against GHG emissions standards.

Overall, across the industry associations working to weaken auto industry carbon emissions policies, “Every automaker included in the study except Tesla remains a member of at least two of these groups, with most automakers a member of at least five.”

Interestingly, looking at expected electrification levels by 2030, two of the companies leading in share of their US sales being electric, BMW and Mercedes, are on track to do what’s needed to curb global warming emissions (along with Tesla). Those three companies are the only ones out of the 15 that are “forecast to produce enough electric vehicles by 2030 to meet the International Energy Agency’s updated 1.5°C pathway of 66% electric vehicle (battery electric (BEV), fuel cell (FCEV) and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs)) sales according to InfluenceMap’s independent analysis of industry-standard data from February 2024.” So, at least we have some decent progress and momentum up at the higher end of the auto market.

Interestingly, as an overall grade rating, only Tesla (B), Ford (C), GM (C), Volkswagen Group (C-), and Mercedes (C-) had grades above D.

There’s one final matter InfluenceMap highlighted. Unfortunately, it may be an even more difficult trend to steer in the right direction. That matter is the size of vehicles. People keep buying bigger and bigger vehicles, automakers keep building bigger and bigger vehicles, and automakers keep phasing out smaller models — discontinuing them. All the while, automakers are “pushing for regulations that promote larger vehicles.” The larger automobiles make automakers bigger profits. Unfortunately, of course, they burn more fuel, which contributes more to pollution and global heating emissions. Even in the case of electric vehicles, bigger batteries are needed, which results in more emissions and more mining, and more electricity is used to propel the less efficient vehicles forward as well.

All in all, it’s not looking great. Electrification of the auto industry is helping it to cut emissions more than transitions in some other industries are doing the same for them, but the industry is still behind where it needs to be — and lobbying to go even further behind. Shameful.

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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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