Toyota’s Green Strategy Has Mix of EVs, Hybrids, Hydrogen

The automaker aims to offer drivers a range of powertrains to fit their needs while reducing carbon emissions.

February 22, 2021

PLANO, Texas—Toyota Motor Corp. is embracing a multi-faceted approach to green powertrains that includes a mix of battery-electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids, traditional hybrids and hydrogen-fuel-cell models for the U.S. market as it pushes to meet its goal of offering 40% of all new models as electrics by 2025 and 70% by 2030.

During a recent media roundtable, Bob Carter, Toyota North America executive vice president of sales, said the automaker wants “to be the Macy's department store of powertrains, and by doing that, we can continue to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of our customers,” MotorTrend reports. It’s an acknowledgement that not all buyers need or want pure EVs, and Toyota will provide them with options that offer some level of electrification.

It’s not a case of “one size fits all [to] achieve the greatest level of greenhouse reduction,” said Gill Pratt, Toyota’s chief scientist and the CEO of the Toyota Research Institute, the Detroit Bureau reports.

Toyota released a Java-based software tool to help weigh the relative benefits of different propulsion systems in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Toyota’s approach differs from General Motors, which has pledged to phase out gasoline- and diesel-powered engines by 2035. Ford last week said that by 2026, the company will offer only electric and plug-in hybrid models in Europe, and by 2030 all of Ford’s passenger cars will run solely on batteries in Europe.

Rival Honda’s newly named CEO, Toshihiro Mibe, is an engineer who worked on EVs and hybrids. The Japanese automaker aims to have two-thirds of the vehicles it sells by 2030 be EVs and hybrids. Honda has a partnership with General Motors to co-develop EVs, the Wall Street Journal reports.

New Models

Toyota is forging ahead with plans for a new plug-in hybrid vehicle for the U.S. market and two new battery-electric 2022 models, including an SUV crossover sold under the Toyota nameplate and as yet undisclosed model to be sold under either the Toyota or Lexus brand, Car & Driver reports. Toyota currently offers 17 electrified vehicles in the U.S. market and sold 337,000 sold last year, accounting for 16% of its sales.

Toyota plans to offer its first pair of long-range battery-electric vehicles in the U.S. market later this year, and it’s planning to introduce a solid-state battery-powered vehicle early this decade. Compared with lithium-ion battery packs, solid-state batteries charge quicker, last longer and have a greater energy density, providing longer drive times before recharging.

“Expect some [solid-state-powered] concepts and prototypes entering the Japanese market in the near future,” said Carter, who added that if the technology lives up to expectation “it could be a game-changer,” the Detroit Bureau reports.

EVs comprise only a small part of new car sales in the U.S., but are the fastest-growing category in the automobile industry. The International Energy Agency tallies EVs as making up 3% of the global total of new car sales. Listen to the Convenience Matters Episode No. 268, “Outlook for 2021 Travel Patterns,” for a discussion of EVs in the U.S.

The Fuels Institute has prepared an evaluation of the electric vehicle market from the consumer perspective, including total cost of ownership, recharging infrastructure requirements, anticipated consumer recharging behavior and the relationship of EVs to competing technology in terms of consumer adoption. Visit “Electric Vehicle Adoption: Focus on Charging” to learn more. In addition, the Institute’s Electric Vehicle Council soon will be publishing three new reports pertaining to EV charging infrastructure options, regulations and consumer behavior.

Watch this YouTube video by the Fuels Institute and NACS  for more information on EV infrastructure.

Hydrogen Future

Toyota recently announced plans to develop heavy-duty hydrogen fuel-cell trucks, which can provide a longer range and quicker refueling than battery-electric vehicles. A stumbling point, though, is the limited hydrogen distribution network in the U.S., which is even scarcer than public EV-charging infrastructure.

Fuel cells draw hydrogen gas from tanks on board the truck, mix it with oxygen and convert it to electricity, which drives the vehicle’s motor. This process eliminates the need to store power in heavy stacks of batteries, and it releases only water vapor into the atmosphere. With the availability of hydrogen fuel, trucks could stay on the road for days, which would be a big advantage for trucks that travel long distances and need to refuel quickly.

Japan, meanwhile, is expanding its hydrogen fueling network to gas stations, NIKKEI Asia reports. The nation has the largest network of hydrogen stations worldwide, with about 135 stations.

Listen to Convenience Matters Episode No. 169, “Should You Bet on Hydrogen Fuel?,” as James Kast, fuel cell business analyst for Toyota North America, and David Park, fuel cell fuels infrastructure coordinator for the California Fuel Cell Partnership discuss the role hydrogen is playing in the future of transportation.

For more on hydrogen-powered vehicles, see “Fuel’s Errand?” in the October issue of NACS Magazine.