Toyota has launched a stinging attack on electric vehicles (EVs) claiming they are not ready for Australian roads, not as green as they seem, and remain “impractical for the vast majority of Australian motorists”. This is certainly not the first time such comments have been made by a top Toyota executive.
But Australia’s popular electric car brands and industry groups claim the argument is a “cynical” attack by a company “too slow off the mark” and at risk of losing the future automotive race. According to Tesla and Australia’s Electric Vehicle Council, Toyota’s comments have the potential to slow cuts to transport emissions and harm a promising local industry exporting in-demand battery minerals.
The argument comes after EV sales in Australia have more than doubled and as future legislation promises to increase supply. Sean Hanley, the vice-president of sales at Toyota Australia, made the comments to journalists at the Japan Mobility show where the company showed off future products, some concepts, as well as its first EV the bZ4X SUV, the launch of which has been delayed in Australia to the first quarter of 2024.
Like most Toyota executives, Hanley told journalists that hybrid vehicles were “a better fit” for Australian motorists and could have greater environmental benefits. He said:
“Electric vehicles make sense right now in places like Norway where most energy is renewable and incomes are high but Australia is not Europe. In countries like Australia, our data suggests that hybrids can have a greater impact than full electrification in getting carbon off the road.”
He argued Toyota could make more hybrid vehicles with the same materials used to create one electric car, that EVs were “powered, in many cases, by electricity generated from coal” and that they remained “impractical” for drivers.
But Hanley’s comments prompted immediate rebukes from other parts of the automotive industry, including one of Toyota’s newest and biggest rivals.
Rohan Patel, Tesla’s vice president of public policy, issued a statement on social network X (formerly Twitter) saying Hanley is “obviously not much of an expert on the Australian electricity grid”. He pointed to Australia’s growing use of renewable electricity and said thousands of drivers were using “100% clean energy from the sun” to fuel their cars. Rohan said:
“Aussies are too smart than to be tricked by cynical [public relations] that aims to slow the sustainable transportation transition to help sell internal combustion vehicles in the short-term.”
Figures from the Federal Energy Department show renewable sources generated 32% of Australia’s electricity last year, with most from solar followed by wind and hydro.
The Electric Vehicle Council’s chief executive, Behyad Jafari, says the comments from Toyota also have the potential to undermine a lucrative local industry. Australia produced more lithium – the main element used to produce electric vehicle batteries – than any other nation in 2022, according to the United States Geological Survey. Jafari said:
“These comments go against what’s in the best interest of both Australian consumers looking to save on fuel bills and Australia’s economy by talking down the battery industry when we’re the ones who can supply the world with electric vehicle batteries. This is an attempt by [Toyota] to try to defend their own failings rather than admitting, as they have at a global level, they got it wrong and they’ve been too slow off the market with EVs.”
Jafari goes on to point out that Toyota’s market share has been dropping in Australia and the electric vehicle market share has been growing. Figures from the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries show Toyota still remains the top-selling brand in Australia, but its lead is rapidly narrowing. The Japanese automaker sold over 21,000 fewer vehicles this year than during the same period last year, while electric rival Tesla sold almost 24,000 more cars than it did in the previous year.
Electric vehicle sales from all brands have more than doubled in 2023. The Australian Electric Vehicle Association’s national president, Chris Jones, says the popularity of EVs has been boosted by the arrival of more electric models that are ultimately cheaper to run than petrol cars and more environmentally friendly. Jones explains a scenario:
“When it comes to buying a new vehicle, the cost difference between a hybrid Toyota Corolla and a full-electric MG4 is small [at] less than $8,000. People would spend $8,000 on fuel in the next five years, so on a financial basis if you’re going to hold on to a car for a reasonable time, the EV is the better option.”
Jones says there are a small number of circumstances in which electric cars do not yet meet motorists’ needs but they represent a minority of users who tow “extremely heavy loads” in “very difficult driving conditions”. On the other hand, “everyone else’s needs are entirely met by what’s on the market and what will continue to come to market,” he said.
Source: The Guardian
A computer animation professional with over 23 years of industry experience having served in leading organizations, TV channels & production facilities in Pakistan. An avid car enthusiast and petrolhead with an affection to deliver quality content to help shape opinions. Formerly written for PakWheels as well as major publications including Dawn. Founder of CarSpiritPK.com