Toyota may be the largest car company on the planet, depending on how you measure such things — most cars sold, highest corporate profits, or number of executive washrooms in its corporate offices — but Toyota seems to be deliberately dismissing the electric car revolution spearhead by Elon Musk and his minions. Instead, it is focusing on hybrid powertrains and hydrogen fuel cells. Are its top executives clueless, delusional, or just plain ignorant?
Last week, Larry Hutchinson, president and CEO of Toyota Canada, gave a speech during the opening ceremonies for this year’s Canadian International Auto Show.
Hutchinson acknowledges that the world is suffering from an overabundance of carbon emissions (many of them created by the millions upon millions of Toyota vehicles on the road worldwide).
There is a solution to this conundrum, of course, and the solution is the one Toyota has been trumpeting for the past 15 years — hybrid power.
Toyota continues to make hybrid powertrains available in more models, including in its Lexus luxury division. It recently introduced the hybrid RAV4 compact SUV, which could certainly surprise quite a few owners with its 219 horsepower and combined fuel economy of 40 miles per gallon. There are precious few other SUVs on the road that squeeze that many miles out of a gallon of gasoline. It even has a 1,750 pound tow rating, something many battery electric cars lack.
“Governments have their environmental goals. So does Toyota. The government has a carbon reduction objective: 30 per cent by 2030. Toyota wants to get there, too. In fact, we want to go further. And we have a solid, practical plan to get there,” Hutchinson says, although careful readers will note the company has sided with the current US administration in its quest to roll back gas mileage standards to the 90s. If that strikes you as Toyota talking out of both sides of its corporate mouth, you’re not wrong. Toyota is promoting an “all of the above” scenario similar to what nuclear, coal, and natural gas advocates propose for the electricity generation industry.
If memory serves, the US government did precisely that. It set the goal posts in 2015 and 2016. Then Toyota and several other major car companies cried foul and begged the new government to save them from the very standards they agreed to. Hutchinson’s argument makes some sense, but it is hard to trust anything he or Toyota says.
And here’s something he should consider. Any EV, with its quiet, powerful ride, is far more pleasant to drive than any hybrid vehicle Toyota makes with its gasoline engines cutting in and out incessantly and the roar of its low tech continuously variable transmission filling the passenger cabin whenever the driver whistles down to the engine room for more power. (I owned a Prius for 3 years. I know whereof I speak.) When Toyota makes a hybrid that is as smooth and silent as a battery electric car, then and only then can it truly say it is offering consumers choices that are as good or better than an electric car.