Let’s stipulate a couple of facts right at the top: Toyota makes a lot of cars, so many that it’s the world’s largest or second-largest auto manufacturer every year. Toyota makes a lot of good, reliable cars. The Corolla, for instance, may not be flashy but the little things will go for a quarter-million miles or more and they mostly just run without breaking down much. Change the oil when you’re supposed to and you’re probably good to go.
Let’s stipulate one more fact: Whether cars keep burning gas or run on electricity, Toyota is poised to make and sell millions of electric vehicles. It already has the game-changing solid-state battery coming on line. It launched the Prius way back in 1997. Toyota has not only not resisted the adaptation of EVs, it has led the way. Fundamentally, Toyota does not care if cars are powered by gas or nuclear fusion engines as long as it maintains its position and sells millions of them.
So Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda’s comments at the company’s year-end press conference deserve notice and no little amount of respect. He knows more about cars and their economic ecosystem than just about anyone else on the planet.
The Wall Street Journal was in attendance and noted the CEO’s disdain for EVs boils down to his belief they’ll ruin businesses, require massive investments, and even emit more carbon dioxide than combustion-engined vehicles. “The current business model of the car industry is going to collapse,” he said. “The more EVs we build, the worse carbon dioxide gets… When politicians are out there saying, ‘Let’s get rid of all cars using gasoline,’ do they understand this?”
CarBuzz has mischaracterized Toyoda’s comments. It’s not “disdain for EVs” he’s expressing. It’s disdain for the failure to count the cost of what politicians are proposing. More EVs will demand more electricity.
Toyota is getting at two things. One, EVs are not powered by magical unicorn emissions, they are powered by the means we use to generate electricity. In Japan, the United States, and everywhere else, that’s fossil fuels to the tune of a huge majority of our electric power generation (61% in the U.S., with wind and solar making up about 17%, while Japan relies more heavily on nuclear power than most due to its lack of indigenous oil). Imagine taking every car in Japan or the United States and powering it not by gasoline or diesel, but by electricity. This will require a dramatic expansion of the amount of electric power we currently generate. There is no getting around this fact. We would be displacing gasoline or diesel for another power source. We’re still pulling something out of the ground and burning it in some way. The main question is where is it being burned?