Central Planners’ Electric-Vehicle Push Is “More Political Showmanship Than Sound Planning”

(p. A1) The Toyota Prius hybrid was a milestone in the history of clean cars, attracting millions of buyers worldwide who could do their part for the environment while saving money on gasoline.

But in recent months, Toyota, one of the world’s largest automakers, has quietly become the industry’s strongest voice opposing an all-out transition to electric vehicles — which proponents say is critical to fighting climate change.

. . .

(p. A9) In statements, Toyota said that it was in no way opposed to electric vehicles. “We agree and embrace the fact that all-electric vehicles are the future,” Eric Booth, a Toyota spokesman, said. But Toyota thinks that “too little attention is being paid to what happens between today, when 98 percent of the cars and trucks sold are powered at least in part by gasoline, and that fully electrified future,” he said.

Until then, Mr. Booth said, it makes sense for Toyota to lean on its existing hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles to reduce emissions. Hydrogen fuel cell technology should also play a role. And any efficiency standards should “be informed by what technology can realistically deliver and help keep vehicles affordable,” the company said in a statement.

. . .

On paper, Toyota’s approach to zero-emissions vehicles, the hydrogen fuel cell, is a dream: Unlike battery-powered electric vehicles, these cars carry hydrogen tanks and fuel cells that turn the hydrogen into electricity. They refuel and accelerate quickly, and can travel for several hundred miles on a tank, emitting only water vapor. And hydrogen, theoretically, is abundant.

But a high sticker price, as well as lack of refueling infrastructure, has hampered the growth of a hydrogen economy, at least for passenger cars.

. . .

Jeffrey K. Liker, professor emeritus of industrial and operations engineering at the University of Michigan and author of “The Toyota Way,” said that there were other factors slowing Toyota’s push. A famously cautious company, Toyota has researched solid-state batteries, which are safer than the widely used lithium-ion technology, but readying that technology has taken longer than they expected, he said. Toyota has also spoken about not wanting to lay off employees or bankrupt suppliers in a rapid transition to electrics.

“Toyota’s view is also that countries are jumping in with the idea of the electric-vehicle endgame without a real plan, and it’s more political showmanship than sound planning,” Mr. Liker said.

For the full story, see:

Hiroko Tabuchi. “Maker of Prius Now Resisting Emissions Push.” The New York Times (Monday, July 26, 2021): A1 & A9.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Aug. [sic] 6, 2021, and has the title “Toyota Led on Clean Cars. Now Critics Say It Works to Delay Them.”)

Liker’s book mentioned above is:

Liker, Jeffrey. The Toyota Way, 14 Management Principles from the World’s Greatest Manufacturer. 2nd ed: McGraw-Hill Education, 2021.

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