Unlike most major automakers, Japanese car giant Toyota has barely made any inroads into the young but rapidly growing electric vehicle sector. Aside from a line of plug-in hybrids, including the Toyota Prius, Toyota has not revealed any concrete plans to develop battery electric vehicles in the near future.
Instead, the world’s largest carmaker seems to have hedged its bets on hydrogen fuel cells and hybrid technology. Toyota’s investment in hydrogen fuel cells has also been met with criticism from experts who believe hydrogen-powered cars are not a feasible option.
Toyota has now pushed back against such criticism, stating that it has been focused on developing a suite of alternative powertrains capable of functioning in different markets and addressing different customers’ needs. During its latest annual general meeting, Toyota announced that it was doubling down on hydrogen fuel cell and plug-in hybrid technology that has made it a top producer of cleaner vehicles.
Released more than 20 years ago, the Toyota Prius proved that it was possible to develop a roadworthy plug-in hybrid vehicle. By 2020, Toyota’s entire lineup of hybrid vehicles had reached a whopping 15 million units in sales. However, the company has received criticism from investors in recent years for not phasing-out fossil fuel-powered vehicles and lobbying against climate change policies.
The automaker has since reviewed its anti-climate lobbying practices due to investor interest and as part of its efforts to achieve carbon neutrality. Chief technology officer Masahiko Maeda reiterated during the meeting that the company’s goal is carbon neutrality. He added that customers should be able to choose from a variety of electrified options, including plug-in hybrids, and that Toyota would not let these options down.
Toyota states that since the world still doesn’t have the infrastructure needed to support mass EV adoption, fossil fuel-electric hybrids and hydrogen fuel cell cars can be used to bridge the gap until the infrastructure catches up. Seija Sugiura, a senior analyst from Tokai Tokyo Research Institute, notes that while environmental groups have been calling for immediate climate change action, Toyota has taken a more pragmatic approach.
This includes reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions in the production stage, he says. Additionally, Toyota pledged last year to invest $60 billion (8 trillion yen) into electrifying its vehicle lineup by 2030, with half of the funds being earmarked for fully electric cars. The Japanese automaker has also pledged to invest a further $3.4 billion (380 billion yen) to develop automotive batteries in America.
It now remains to be seen whether companies such as Toyota that haven’t gone all out to electrify their lineups got it right compared to others like Kandi Technologies Group Inc. (NASDAQ: KNDI) that went all in for EVs.
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