Toyota is on track to introduce an electric prototype powered by state-of-the-art battery technology in 2021, but its chief executive warned that banning the internal combustion engine too quickly is a short-sighted decision. He explained that blanket bans could trigger job losses and electricity shortages while making cars more expensive.
"When politicians are out there saying, 'let's get rid of all cars using gasoline,' do they understand this?," said Toyota president Akio Toyoda during a Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association news conference. He's the organization's chairman, and his comments were first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
He added that Japan would run out of electricity in the summer, when many homes and businesses use their air conditioning systems, if every car on Japanese roads ran on batteries. Alternatively, he noted making the infrastructure upgrades required to support an all-electric fleet would cost between $135 and $358 billion.
Even if the grid was suitably improved, he continued, electrifying Japan's fleet wouldn't necessarily reduce emissions. The Wall Street Journal pointed out most of the nation's electricity comes from natural gas and coal. "The more EVs we build, the worse carbon dioxide gets," Toyoda said during the conference.
He then turned his attention to the ramifications that a ban on the internal combustion engine would have on the car industry, and on motorists. "The current business model of the car industry is going to collapse," he predicted without going into details, adding that draconian government regulations threaten to make car ownership "a flower on a high summit," so out of reach for many motorists. Although electric technology is getting cheaper annually, and government incentives help make battery-powered cars more affordable, the price difference remains sizable.
Toyota doesn't sell a regular-production electric model in the United States, but rival Hyundai charges $37,190 for the Kona Electric, which is $16,790 more than the gasoline-powered model it's based on.
Toyota has long elevated hybrid technology, which it has over two decades of experience in, as the best way forward. It sells nine hybrid models in the United States, ranging from the Corolla to the RAV4. It has also made significant investments in hydrogen technology, notably through a productive joint-venture with BMW. It's nonetheless planning on releasing at least six EVs, and its Lexus division is preparing to enter the segment, too.
Toyoda's comments come a few weeks after Japanese officials announced they were considering banning the sale of new gasoline- and diesel-powered cars at some point in the middle of the 2030s. Lawmakers haven't made a decision yet. England announced earlier in 2020 that it will implement a ban in 2030, much sooner than expected, while California and Quebec both set 2035 as a target. So far, a vast majority of carmakers have -- publicly, at least -- stated their intention to comply with these regulations instead of speaking out against them.