Toyota, the world’s biggest car-maker, this week unveiled its first electric SUV (pictured above), one of seven different pure electric models it plans to roll out over the next few years.
But the Japanese car giant is in no great hurry to ditch the internal combustion engine, and its reasons for going slow appear to be based on the assumption of a climate catastrophe.
“One-quarter of the world’s CO2 emissions today come from electricity generation. Even by 2040, more than half the world’s electricity is expected to be generated by fossil fuels,” Toyota’s head of sales and marketing in Australia, Sean Hanley, told Car Advice in an article titled Why every car on the plant can’t switch to electric power.
“Therefore if all cars were to become (pure electric vehicles), the demand for electricity would increase and carbon neutrality could be a long way off,” Hanley said, adding that this was a clear reason not to go too hard or too fast on all electric.
We asked Toyota Australia for the source of Hanley’s prediction that fossil fuels would be generating half of the world’s electricity by 2040. We didn’t hear back.
Even the International Energy Agency, the still conservative organisation established half a century ago to protect the oil and gas industry, reckons that “the share of renewables in global electricity generation grows from just over 25% in 2019 to more than 50% by 2030”.
That’s in its latest Sustainable Development Scenario, which delivers global net zero emissions by around 2070, which represents a slower transition than its Net Zero 2050 target, the very minimum that needs to be achieved if the world is to cap average global warming at around 2°C.
So, Toyota’s declaration that there is no point reaching high levels of electric car sales by 2040 is based on the assumption that the world is going to miss its climate targets, not just by a small margin, but a huge margin. It’s a grim prediction.
Many of the world’s car brands – including Jaguar (2025), Mini (2030), Ford (2030 in Europe), and General Motors (2035), say they will stop making any petrol or diesel cars in the next decade or so, and some countries such as the UK will ban sales of new fossil fuel cars by 2030. Norway is imposing the ban on new internal combustion engine car sales, including hybrids and plug in hybrids, in 2025.
Toyota led the world in the rollout of hybrid cars, starting with the top-selling Prius, and even it has been taken aback by the success of the hybrid versions of models such as the RAV4, Camry and Corolla.
Last week it was revealed that Toyota had the cleanest fleet of any car-maker selling in Australia (with the exception of Tesla, of course), in terms of tailpipe emissions. But it has also been a loud opponent of the introduction of compulsory fuel standards, particularly in the US.
By sheer weight of car sales numbers, Toyota wields considerable influence in the Australian industry, and the policy making in Australia, which lags the world in the uptake of EVs and is notable by its absence of any fuel efficiency standard.
That influence can be seen in the federal government’s Future Fuels Strategy (FFS), which focuses on the mild hybrid cars made popular by Toyota, and does nothing to encourage the adoption of battery electric cars, despite Australia’s high transport emissions and its dependence on imported fuels.
Toyota spokesperson Emily Haselhoff added to the gloom by telling Car Advice that a dramatic increase in the sales of electric cars could have “the opposite effect” on overall emissions “unless everyone has solar panels on their house”.
This is simply not true.
A study in the UK found that if all the cars in the UK were electric, carbon emissions would drop by 12 per cent immediately, and numerous studies have concluded that going electric in Australia would also result in a fall in emissions, even in a coal powered grid, and not counting the anticipated growth in renewables which even the federal government admits will reach 50 per cent by 2030, and the market operator predicts could be more than 90 per cent renewables by 2040.
A study by Bloomberg New Energy Finance found that the life cycle emissions of electric cars was significantly less than petrol and diesel cars in the world’s major economies, China, the US, Germany, France and the UK.
Toyota, of course, is not the only multinational to base its future business model on the assumption that the world will largely ignore the need to cut emissions and head to a climate catastrophe. The broader fossil fuel industry, the coal and also oil and gas sectors, have been doing it for decades. But they are now being found out.
In its press release issued this week, Hanley says Toyota will “strive towards” having a powertrain mix that includes “a form” of electrification across its vehicle range by 2030, excluding GR and performance models.
That includes mild hybrids, and fuel cell electric vehicles. But if Toyota is arguing that battery electric vehicles will likely increase emissions in a fossil fuel dominated grid, it could hardly argue the case of energy intensive hydrogen fuel cells, which Australian studies show would dramatically increase emissions rather than lower them.
Toyota, of course, is not the only multinational to base its future business model on a climate catastrophe. The broader fossil fuel industry, the coal and oil and gas sectors, have been doing it for decades.