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How Toyota went from being a climate protection pioneer to being a brake on the brakes


Thanks to the hybrid, Toyota has long been considered the most progressive car company. But then the Japanese turned to hydrogen technology instead of batteries. The mistake leads them to a questionable strategy.

Enlarge image

Toyota President Akio Toyoda during a press conference last year.

The head of the largest Japanese car company insists on technology openness - also towards diesel and gasoline engines.

Photo: David Becker / Getty Images

“Hybrid is trumps” - under this heading Toyota is celebrating a Europe-wide sales increase of six percent in the first quarter of this year in its magazine “Auto & Leben”.

About 56 percent of the new cars were hybrid models.

Sounds like a success story, but it's not.

Rather, a massive omission becomes clear: Toyota is without a purely electric car that sells in significant quantities.

Only the Proace minibus has recently been available in a battery-electric version.

And then there is the hydrogen sedan Mirai (sales price from 63,900 euros), of which 154 units were newly registered in the first six months of this year, according to the Federal Motor Transport Authority.

Experts expect more than a million e-cars to hit the market in Europe for the first time this year - Toyota will hardly benefit from this trend.

"Toyota appears to be very surprised in view of the trend towards pure electric mobility in Europe and elsewhere, which is also strongly driven by regulation," says Stefan Bratzel, Director of the Center of Automotive Management at the University of Applied Sciences in Bergisch Gladbach. »The company lacks quick technological answers here. It seems that this is why Toyota wants to delay the development of e-mobility by lobbying. "

In fact, Toyota is increasingly acting as a brake on e-mobility, after having been considered a pioneer in climate protection for decades.

The group is campaigning "consistently against new regulations for stricter emission and consumption values" worldwide, writes the InfluenceMap platform, which specializes in the climate impact of corporations.

It currently rates Toyota's efforts to protect the climate with a "D", the worst rating of all car manufacturers.

Donations to Republican MPs

The New York Times recently listed examples of the political influence exerted by the company that vies with Volkswagen for the title of the world's largest automaker. In June, the newspaper writes, Toyota manager Chris Reynolds went to Washington to speak to congressional officials to speak out against a policy of swiftly switching to electric cars. Hybrid and hydrogen models should also be given more support. Toyota is of the opinion that current policy "pays too little attention to how exactly the transition should work from the present, in which 98 percent of all cars and trucks are at least partially powered by internal combustion engines, to fully electrified mobility in the future." .

Toyota, so the "Times" further, has also supported the Trump administration to overturn the strict emissions legislation of the US state of California.

Toyota rejected a compromise negotiated in 2020 between several automakers and California, which included less stringent, but still stricter emissions limits than the Trump administration wanted.

In addition, according to the newspaper, Toyota is the company that paid by far the largest donation to Republican Congressmen who questioned the outcome of past presidential elections.

Many of these also deny that humans caused climate change.

In the past few months, according to the devastating judgment of the »New York Times«, Toyota has become the strongest adversary of the shift towards electromobility behind the scenes.

Missed development, now it's slowing down

Toyota is blocking the breakthrough of clean technologies on other continents as well.

In Australia, the group opposed stricter emission limits.

In India, the subsidiary Toyota Kirloskar publicly opposed the government's plans to only allow electric vehicles from 2030.

And in Brussels, too, the company is trying again and again to defuse EU regulations, according to various non-governmental organizations that deal with the issues of climate and transport.

If you ask the Toyota European headquarters in Brussels for information about the company's position on the climate package proposed by the EU Commission, which plans to end cars with internal combustion engines from 2035, you get the following answer: “We are convinced that several technical Solutions are needed to reduce CO2 emissions more quickly. Therefore, technologies should not be excluded too soon. Toyota is investing in a range of technologies - including hybrid, plug-in hybrids, battery-electric and fuel-cell vehicles. "

However, the end of combustion models does not mean that only battery-electric vehicles are allowed.

The fuel cell is also an option and is being promoted in Europe and elsewhere as well.

All major manufacturers have been working on various new types of drive for at least two decades - with the result that the battery drive now appears to be the most promising alternative.

Toyota also brings e-models - from 2022

Toyotas must obviously gain time.

Because the previous strategy of the Japanese - first hybrid, then hydrogen - has what it takes to lead the company into disaster.

It is obvious that hybrid technology alone cannot solve the CO2 problem of car traffic.

It is also undisputed that the hydrogen future postulated for decades is still, at best, exactly that: the future.

Especially since no one can plausibly demonstrate how the gigantic quantities of hydrogen required can be quickly generated and distributed in a climate-neutral manner.

The climate benefit of battery-supported electromobility also depends on the expansion of renewable energies.

But because hydrogen propulsion is still very inefficient, it requires many times the energy that is required for battery electromobility.

Of course, Toyota has already recognized all of this.

In April, the company presented the electric SUV bz4X at the Shanghai auto show.

It is the first Toyota vehicle designed from the ground up for battery-electric drive.

The electric car should go into series production in the middle of next year, then presumably under a smoother name.

Toyota has announced a total of 15 all-electric models by 2025.

Hybrid is the trump card?

The Toyota executives apparently no longer believe in this themselves.

Source: spiegel

All tech articles on 2021-07-29

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