Toyota President: Not So Fast with the EVs
Toyota Motor Corporation president Akio Toyoda has long been a skeptic of the frenzied embrace of Electric Vehicles by the automotive industry. Indeed, two years ago we wrote about Toyoda's concerns that it was unrealistic to expect the entire industry to electrify in the timeframe that governments and activists (but we repeat ourselves) have demanded, not least because of the cost of updating infrastructure—in Japan alone he estimated that it would cost somewhere between $135 billion to $358 billion to build up the required infrastructure to support an fully EV fleet.
And then there's the fact that switching to EVs doesn't change how electricity is generated. As Toyoda said at the time, "most of the country’s electricity is generated by burning coal and natural gas, anyway." So the politicians mandating a change are ensuring that, ultimately, our vehicles will all be coal powered. Consequently, according to Toyoda, "The more EVs we build, the worse carbon dioxide gets."
Speaking to reporters in Thailand just recently, Toyoda made clear that his doubts haven't subsided. What was really notable, however, was his claim that he's not alone among industry big-wigs. Indeed, he stated that a "silent majority" are exactly where he is. From the Wall Street Journal:
President Akio Toyoda said he is among the auto industry’s silent majority in questioning whether electric vehicles should be pursued exclusively, comments that reflect a growing uneasiness about how quickly car companies can transition.... [Said Toyoda,] “That silent majority is wondering whether EVs are really OK to have as a single option. But they think it’s the trend so they can’t speak out loudly.”
Perhaps he describes this as a "trend" because he can't bring himself to say "mania," but it is clear that that is what he means.
Toyota, WSJ continues, has refused to follow other industry giants like Honda and General Motors in committing to the total electrification of their fleets by a set date. Instead, the company has insisted on investing in a diverse range of auto technologies, including E.V.s, yes, but also improved traditional vehicles as well as "hydrogen-powered cars and hybrids." For Toyoda, this is just common sense. He has said, “Because the right answer is still unclear, we shouldn’t limit ourselves to just one option.”
Of course, common sense isn't particularly common these days, and so this approach hasn't received universal praise. The report mentions that "Mr. Toyoda’s cautionary tone toward EVs has caused some concern from investors and consumers that the auto maker could be falling behind in the EV race." Why, one wonders, would "consumers" be concerned that a car company remains focused on offering them a variety of options, especially when their competitors seem intent on limiting those options? Investors, meanwhile, are herd animals, who worry when they're not following the pack. Still, in this instance both are likely stand-ins for the activist class who have an outsized influence on everything in our society and who have been using all of their influence to push EVs on us all.
Good on Akio Toyoda for pushing back. Hopefully the rest of the industry decides to man up and follow his lead before it's too late.