Japanese automakers, Toyoda said, will have no choice but to send production of these vehicles to the foreign markets where they are currently exported or to terminate them altogether.
“This means that the production of over 8 million units would be lost and the auto industry could risk losing the majority of the 5.5 million jobs,” Toyoda said. “If they say internal combustion engines are the enemy, we wouldn’t be able to produce almost all vehicles.”
Both in his role as industry spokesperson and Toyota chairman, Toyoda has been a frank, if somewhat lonely voice for moderation and flexibility in the pursuit of carbon neutrality.
He argues that the path should be tailored to the specific conditions of each country, with more freedom over the technologies used to get there, as long as they lead to an overall reduction in carbon emissions.
Its pullback comes as U.S. lawmakers consider aggressive new incentives to get Americans to buy fully electric vehicles, a move with certain provisions that Toyota and Honda, two champions of hybrid vehicles, have openly opposed.
Toyota maintains that hybrid vehicles still have important contributions to make towards carbon neutrality, even if they are equipped with internal combustion engines. Hybrids are more affordable than EVs and can enter markets where charging infrastructure is non-existent. In addition, technical improvements make hybrids continually cleaner.
According to Toyota’s calculations, the 18.1 million hybrid vehicles it has sold over the years had the same impact on reducing carbon dioxide as if it had sold 5.5 million electric batteries – a a level that no car manufacturer has been able to achieve.
Meanwhile, from an economic standpoint, using hybrids as a gateway technology to electric vehicles and zero emissions can help lessen the blow to jobs that make parts for engines and transmissions.
To give internal combustion extra life, Toyota has even started developing engines that burn compressed hydrogen like gasoline, but with virtually no greenhouse gas emissions.
“To achieve carbon neutrality, the enemy is carbon dioxide, not internal combustion,” Toyoda said. “To reduce carbon dioxide emissions, it is necessary to have practical and sustainable initiatives that correspond to different situations in various countries and regions.”