One of the funniest Latin expressions around is “jus sperniandi,” which is the right to scream and complain about something. Akio Toyoda, who is the grandson of the automaker’s founder, Kiichiro Toyoda, exercised that right in a recent Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association year-end press conference which was covered by the Wall Street Journal. He bashed electric cars and claimed they would kill businesses, demand huge investments, and emit more carbon dioxide.
Toyota’s CEO was probably trying to push the Japanese government not to ban ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles as other countries have. According to reports, Japan will set 2035 as the deadline for ICE car sales in the country. However other countries including European markets will but a ban on ICE car sales well before that.
Related: 23 years of Toyota Prius
This is probably the main reason for Toyoda to have attacked electric cars. His company is considered a pioneer in developing hybrids as a safe transition towards electrification. However Toyota has been way too slow towards developing fully electric vehicles. When governments worldwide started banning ICE vehicles, Toyota promised to sell cars with solid-state batteries by 2025.
But the bans will not be that tolerant and Toyoda knows that. If his company is to remain relevant, it will have to start selling EVs (electric vehicles) by 2021. In fact, Lexus and Toyota were forced to do that in China way before that with the UX and the C-HR’s electric versions, respectively.
Toyota has tried selling EVs with Tesla battery packs and motors but gave that up long ago without giving any reason. It is now trying to make fuel cell vehicles a passenger car alternative with the Mirai, but the hydrogen infrastructure will also demand huge investments. That said, it is strange Toyota brought that up as an issue restricted to electric vehicles powered by batteries.
Of all the three points he made, EVs emitting more carbon dioxide has already been proven as a fallacy multiple times. He could have claimed concerns about lithium-ion batteries’ safety, with thermal runaway risks. Or that mining may be an environmental and human rights concern. Yet, he apparently did not touch these subjects perhaps because Toyota will have to use these cells in its EVs before solid-state batteries are ready.
Currently the electric cars are still significantly more expensive than comparable gasoline-powered vehicles, but the gap is diminishing rapidly. According to a new report by Bloomberg’ energy research, the market average price per kilowatt-hour (kwH) for battery EVs is expected to drop to $101 in 2023, nearing the key $100 per kwH threshold that experts believe would allow EVs to be priced the same as their gas counterparts. The report notes that the battery packs of buses in China have already dipped below the $100-per-kWh price point.
It also remains a fact that EVs will kill the automotive industry as we currently know it, but electric cars will uphold personal transportation. Multiple jobs will be lost? Indeed, but new ones will be created too. That was never the right excuse to avoid progress. Luddites became known when they broke machines that replaced workers during the Industrial Revolution, and they failed miserably.
Nobody attacked postmen or cut communication wires when Netflix killed Blockbuster. No one avoided buying smartphones or digital cameras to save Kodak and other film-making companies. That is very unlikely anyone will cry for car companies that are not able to reinvent themselves to offer better, safer, and cleaner products.
If Toyoda’s ancestors could turn loom machine manufacturing into the most valuable car company in the world, it is not unlikely that Akio Toyoda will also manage to turn the current ICE business into the one based on electrification. Screaming about that is a right, but it won’t help.