Toyota has made clean cars. Now critics say it works to delay them.
On paper, Toyota’s approach to zero-emission vehicles, the hydrogen fuel cell, is a dream: unlike battery-powered electric vehicles, these cars come with hydrogen tanks and fuel cells that transform hydrogen into electricity. They refuel and accelerate quickly, and can travel several hundred kilometers on a tank, emitting only water vapor. And hydrogen, theoretically, is plentiful.
But a high sticker price, along with a lack of refueling infrastructure, has hampered the growth of a hydrogen economy, at least for passenger cars.
But Toyota has only sold about 11,000 of its Mirai fuel cell cars since the vehicle was introduced in 2014. Honda, another hydrogen pioneer, recently said it was killing its hydrogen model. Many analysts say hydrogen technology is more suited for long-haul trucks or for use in energy-intensive industries like steelmaking.
“I think hydrogen is showing promise, but it’s at least a decade behind batteries right now,” said David Friedman, vice president of advocacy at Consumer Reports and former acting administrator of National Highway Traffic. Safety Administration. “And Toyota says, ‘No, we have to wait, we have to wait until they’re ready with the hydrogen.’ But the climate cannot wait.
Toyota also argues that hybrid technology, that is, vehicles powered by an internal combustion engine and an electric motor, is an easier first step towards fully electric cars and could help more people use cars. cleaner faster until hydrogen generalizes. Toyota has also made major investments in hybrid technology. The company has defined a vision for a range of products dominated by hybrids until 2050 – much later than when many analysts say new cars need to be zero-emission.
Toyota currently does not sell any electric vehicles in major markets outside of China, but said in April that it plans to sell 15 battery-electric models globally by 2025, part of a wider range of 70 battery-electric, hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles to offer “diverse choices” to buyers.