Toyota slams ‘electric-car only’ extremists again, says there are multiple ways to reduce emissions

Toyota slams ‘electric-car only’ extremists again, says there are multiple ways to reduce emissions
Toyota slams ‘electric-car only’ extremists again, says there are multiple ways to reduce emissions

A Toyota Australia executive has accused electric-car lobbyists of manufacturing “nothing more than media releases”, as the auto giant doubles down on its pledge that no motorist should be left behind in the drive to reduce vehicle emissions.

A senior Australian executive at Japanese car giant Toyota – the biggest seller of motor vehicles in Australia and globally – has launched his second spray in 12 months on extremist electric-car lobby groups that believe battery power is the best solution for all motorists.

In a briefing to media in Melbourne this week on future plans for new diesel, hybrid and electric cars, Toyota Australia sales and marketing boss Sean Hanley slammed special interest groups that accuse Toyota of falling behind, or intentionally slowing the roll-out of electric vehicles.

Toyota has consistently expressed its belief that forcing electric power on all types of vehicles as quickly as possible is not feasible – due to cost, mineral resources, and technology constraints in certain vehicle applications such as utes, vans and four-wheel-drives.

It has also repeatedly pledged that no motorist should be left behind in the switch to low- or zero-emissions vehicles.

While Toyota has been criticised for being slow to introduce electric vehicles – and accused by some as slowing the transition to battery power – it is working behind the scenes on a raft of future electric vehicles, to complement one of the automotive industry’s largest ranges of hybrid cars.

“Our strategy and our plans remain focused on the long-term, leaving no one behind on that journey to carbon neutrality,” Mr Hanley said, standing beside an electric Toyota HiLux concept placed under wraps.

“Perhaps that makes us an easy target for groups who manufacture nothing more than media releases, but we’re certainly prepared to wear that. Our critics are entitled to their views, but too often they’re playing a short game.

“Yes, it is true. Some nations have announced the timeline for banning internal-combustion (petrol and diesel) engines and some automotive manufacturers have said they’ll electrify their entire ranges within the next five to 10 years or so.

“If they live up to their promises, then quite frankly, that’s great. But one thing is becoming clearer as we go on this journey, and that’s the need to look a little closer at the fine print,” he said.

On multiple occasions during the media presentation, Mr Hanley highlighted how Toyota has been building ‘electrified’ cars for more than 20 years – since the first Prius hybrid launched in Australia in 2001 – and has sold more than 350,000 hybrids locally since then, and more than 20 million worldwide.

“Just to be clear, back in the 1990s, Toyota wasn’t the first to market with that hybrid vehicle I spoke about in October 2001. In fact, it was a Honda Insight,” said the Toyota executive.

“But that didn’t stop us pursuing and promoting the technology year after year, more or less on our own. In fact, we were the only brand to consistently have hybrid [technology] in the market from that time on to today.

“As a result of our long-term approach, Toyota customers are already making a substantial contribution to lowering carbon emissions. One-third of our sales today are electrified, a share that I believe will accelerate beyond 50 per cent within two years, thanks solely to our full hybrid-electric and upcoming battery-electric vehicles,” he said, noting 48-volt mild-hybrid power planned for the HiLux ute is not included in the electrified count.

“Can we do better on the sustainability journey? Well, of course we can. We can all do better.

“I confidently predict you’ll see proof in the coming years from the awesome engineering and manufacturing juggernaut that is Toyota, multiple technologies across our vehicles and our business that will deliver on our global promise of carbon neutrality by 2050, and we’ll achieve that while leaving no one behind on that journey.”

Later in the presentation – when unveiling the electric HiLux concept, which is a short-range, two-wheel-drive vehicle for city use, rather than a four-wheel-drive for off-roading and towing – Mr Hanley took aim at the difficulty of putting battery power in utes with today’s technology.

“Given the enormous challenges we face in electrifying commercial vehicles, it seems to make sense that we’d start with an electric ute for the on-road market. In fact, I can imagine a day, perhaps a few years from now, when such a vehicle could help transform the e-mobility landscape in many countries.

“Of course, what I’m really hanging out for is exactly the same thing that everybody’s asking the question about, and that is a load-carrying, trailer-towing, remote-area, off-road HiLux 4×4 with zero tailpipe emissions. What a vehicle that would be and it’s possible,” Mr Hanley said.

“But imagine the size, weight and charging time of the battery pack that you’d need to do all that and achieve 800 kilometres of [driving] range. Rest assured, Toyota is working on it. Of course, our breakthrough work on solid-state batteries may come to the fore.”

Mr Hanley then turned to hydrogen fuel-cell technology, which Toyota has been developing for “years” – and which promises both five-minute refuelling times, and driving ranges closer to petrol- and diesel-powered vehicles.

“This, ladies and gentlemen, is exactly where diversified powertrains come into [their] own form. This is why Toyota continues to back a technology-agnostic [fuel-efficiency standard] in the market today, leaving nobody behind … It’s made possible by the willingness of Toyota to invest in more than one technology.”

At the end of his presentation – after detailing multiple new hybrid models, and the BZ4X – the Toyota Australia executive returned to his criticism of groups that accuse Toyota of falling behind in the electric-car race.

“I think we’re more advanced, quite frankly – and I think we’re demonstrating that tonight – than many people or organisations tend to give us credit for.

“Our approach embraces both incremental gains and major advances. That’s because in the war against carbon, on the journey to a more sustainable future that leaves no one behind, every single step truly does matter.

“I know I was a bit light-hearted, but I’ve been around a long time in this industry and I know when that step started, and I know where this transition’s going to go to electrification.

“It will accelerate, no doubt, but you can’t leave people behind. There’s hundreds of thousands of people out there that have other uses for cars. In time, we’ll have vehicles that do it, but you need time to take them all on the journey.

He concluded his main speech: “I wish I was 20 years younger, because the future for the next generation of Toyota is in pretty damn good hands. And that’s why we’re committed to a multi-path approach to carbon neutrality.

“Nothing’s changed. I know I might sound like a broken record, but nothing’s changed … We all know we’re gonna get to carbon neutral. That’s not a debate for us. If you don’t, you don’t survive. It’s just how and when, [that] we debate.”

In a later question-and-answer session with the Australian media conference – when asked about Toyota’s stance on a proposed government fuel-efficiency standard – Mr Hanley rejected unsubstantiated allegations that Toyota is running interference in the roll-out of electric power.

“We’ve always thought there’s got to be a fair and reasonable target around emissions but really, it’s got to be a target that is affordable, practical, and doesn’t leave people behind. An appropriate target, that’s all we ask. That’s all we can do,” he said.

“But this whole idea that we’re trying to stifle it, stop [electric cars] or slow it down, it’s just not true. It’s good media stuff, but it’s just not true.”

The post Toyota slams ‘electric-car only’ extremists again, says there are multiple ways to reduce emissions appeared first on Drive.

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