Toyota used to be the darling of the environmental movement with their cutting edge hybrid technology. The Prius was introduced in 1997 – and went on to become the best-selling hybrid vehicle in history. As of January 2017, the Prius liftback was the world’s top selling hybrid car with almost 4 million units sold. So, why were they late out of the gate with the EV (electric vehicle)? What happened?
Nothing happened. Toyota has stuck to their core philosophy that all-electric vehicles are one solution, not the solution, for the future of transportation.
“In the distant future, I’m not investing assuming that battery electrics are 100% of the market. I just don’t see it,” says Jim Adler, managing director of Toyota Ventures, the company’s venture capital unit. “It really will be a mixed market.”
Toyota is not alone with this plan. Ford, Stellantis and other Japanese automakers are investing in electrified hybrid models. But because Toyota is #1, their cautious approach to EVs is notable.
The strategy has pitted the world’s largest automaker against many of its rivals and environmentalists all over the world. Toyota has been vilified by environmental groups like the Sierra Club and YouTube influencers like Tom Moloughney.
Do environmental activists even know that electric vehicles are not 100% green – that 61% of electricity comes from fossil fuels – coal, natural gas, petroleum, and other gases? Do they know that nickel, a major component of EV batteries, is extracted by strip mining that causes extensive damage in the rainforests of Brazil, Indonesia, and the Philippines?
The environmental and logistical impact of EV vehicles as the only form of transportation in the future is unrealistic and unsustainable.
Maybe Toyota is smarter than the critics think. They didn’t become the world’s largest automaker by making mistakes. In spite of a few setbacks like the new electric BZ4X that was recently recalled, their vision of the future makes a lot more sense than automakers like GM that have gone gung-ho with an all-electric lineup by 2035.
Toyota has a more conservative environmental challenge they intend to meet by 2050, and it isn’t all-electric. Hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicles are one of Toyota’s big investments. They are powered by electricity generated from hydrogen and oxygen, with water vapor as the only byproduct..
EV, fuel cell, and plug-in hybrids will also be in Toyota’s lineup. Plus, to the environment extremists’ chagrin, it includes internal combustion engines. Toyota will not only reduce the harmful impact of nonrenewable resources, they will also provide a realistic approach to transportation down the road.
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