Toyota still cautious on EVs, says there's too much hype

Although more and more major automakers are diving deep into the world of electric vehicles, Toyota continues to remain cautious.

Toyota is among the world’s biggest automakers, and the most profitable, though it has dragged its feet in the area of EVs, preferring to focus on hybrids as the solution for reducing emissions.

Now though, with governments proposing, and in some cases confirming, plans to ban vehicles with internal-combustion engines, Toyota President Akio Toyoda has lashed out, suggesting that there’s too much hype surrounding EVs.

“When politicians are out there saying, ‘Let’s get rid of all cars using gasoline,’ do they understand this?,” he said Thursday at a new conference hosted by the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Akio Toyoda

Akio Toyoda

His comments come just weeks after the Nikkei reported that Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry was considering banning sales of cars powered solely by internal-combustion engines by the mid-2030s.

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According to The Wall Street Journal report, Toyoda’s main issue is the infrastructure that would be required to power the world’s EVs. Pointing out Japan, he said between $135 billion and $358 billion would need to be spent on infrastructure alone if the country’s vehicle fleet went fully electric. He also pointed out that in Japan, most electricity is generated by burning coal and natural gas, which means more EVs won’t necessarily reduce emissions.

A second issue is the impact on the economy. Toyoda said getting rid of cars with internal-combustion engines would cost millions of jobs, since EVs don’t require as many staff for manufacturing. The higher cost of EVs would also make vehicle ownership too difficult for some members of society, he said.

Toyota still doesn’t sell any EVs in serious volumes, but that’s going to change soon, despite the views of its chief. Toyota is committed to launching at least 10 battery-electric cars within the first half of the decade, including some with solid-state batteries, a technology that promises more range and faster charging times than current liquid-state batteries. Toyota’s first volume EV is expected to be a compact crossover SUV twinned with a version from Subaru.

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