Japan has said it plans to end sales of new vehicles with internal combustion engines by the mid-2030s. And this despite criticism from the head of Toyota Motor, who said that a hasty switch to electric vehicles could harm the auto industry.
The plan, released Friday, follows similar moves from the US state of California and key European countries. But he met with resistance from the leaders of automobile concerns in the country, which still produces millions of cars annually that run exclusively on gasoline engines. According to the plan, Japan will not ban the sale of hybrid gas-electric vehicles after 2035. Many models of the leading Japanese automakers – Toyota, Honda Motor and Nissan Motor – are available in both traditional and hybrid versions.
Toyota President Akio Toyoda said this month that if Japan is too hasty to ban gasoline-powered cars and switch to electric vehicles, the current auto industry business model will collapse. He spoke on behalf of Japanese car manufacturers as head of the local industry association. The chief recalled that the electricity grid cannot meet the increased summer demand and added that most of Japan’s electricity is generated by burning fossil fuels.
Government officials responded by saying that automakers need to simply rethink their business models. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga pointed to the part of Toyota’s words in which he said he supports the government’s goal of making Japan carbon neutral by 2050. “Reducing carbon emissions should be seen as a growth strategy, not as a means of limiting growth,” – emphasized Mr. Suga.
According to statistics from the Japan Association of Automobile Manufacturers, in 2019, 2.55 million gasoline cars, 1.42 million hybrids, 165 thousand diesel cars and 37 thousand electric cars (or fuel cell models) were sold in Japan.
According to the government plan, all new cars sold in Japan since the mid-2030s must be electrified. This includes electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids, and vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells. The plan states that the cost of batteries must be reduced so that in a decade, electric cars will cost about the same as gasoline-powered cars.
Draft plans released by the country’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry express concern that Europe and China are ahead of Japan on this issue. They note that sales of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid vehicles more than tripled in the European Union between July and September to around 270,000 units, compared with just around 6,000 in Japan. Ministerial official Masayoshi Arai said Japan is very far behind in vehicle electrification.
Japanese automaker executives are outraged by such claims, believing that more hybrid cars are sold in Japan than in any other country. Some are wondering if all-electric cars like those produced by Tesla are more environmentally friendly than hybrids, given the carbon footprint of electric vehicles, their components and electricity. “This is absolutely not the case when Japan is lagging behind.”– said the head of Honda Toshihiro Mibe (Toshihiro Mibe), who heads the industry council on environmental technology.
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