Toyota still doesn’t believe in electric cars and explains why

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If Toyota has recently marketed its first electric car, the bZ4X, the Japanese firm has never believed in this engine and does not hesitate to make it known. And this time, it is the company’s chief scientist who explains the reasons for this distrust that has lasted for several years.

Toyota bZ4X
Toyota bZ4X // Source: Etienne Rovillé

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As of today, all manufacturers plan to become 100% electric in a more or less short term. Everyone, really? And no, because a brand resists time and time again. This is Toyota, which has never been fully convinced by this engine, despite the fact that it will probably be the only one that is authorized from 2035 in Europe. And the Japanese brand does not hesitate to say it loud and clear to anyone who wants to hear it.

a dangerous energy

Last October, Toyota said that hybrid cars would be as clean as electric models and that adopting this excessive motorization would not necessarily be relevant. The last December, Akio Toyoda, former head of the brand now replaced by Koji Sato puts the lid back on, saying that ” electric is not the solution« .

The manager then explained that “ people who work in the auto industry are part of a silent majority » and that this « question the relevance of see electric cars as the only option“. But then, why so much mistrust? Well, here’s Gill Pratt, Toyota’s chief scientist, giving us the answer to this nagging question.

For the latter, this would have to do in particular with the strong demand for lithium and the visibly declining stocks. So much so that manufacturers fear a shortage of batteries for their electric cars in the coming years, after that of semiconductors. According to the scientist, then it would be more logical distribute this material in hybrid vehicles instead of just offering cars that run on a single power source.

As we know, electric ones need larger batteries to have a long autonomy. Except the weight is then heavier, which reduces the distance you can go on a single charge. It is the snake that bites its tail. And who says bigger batteries mean rising costs while lithium is getting more expensive.

Electric cars vs. hybrids

But that is not all. Because beyond the concerns related to logistics, betting on the hybrid would also be more relevant from an environmental point of view. Gill Pratt offers a simulation broadcast by automotive news which explains this in more detail. To do this, the scientist takes 100 thermal cars, which reject 250 g/km. If there are enough lithium resources to make a 100 kWh battery, there are two possible options.

then it is possible create just one big accumulator and put it in an electric car like a Tesla Model S, but the other 99 vehicles will still be powered by an internal combustion engine that emits CO2 in use, averaging 248.5g/km across the 100 cars.

The best solution, according to Toyota, would be to use these same resources to create smaller batteries to power 90 hybrid cars. Thus, average emissions would be reduced to 205 g/km.

shades to bring

However, the engineer’s statement may be qualified. This takes into account one constraint: the fact of having a finite amount of lithium due to a demand greater than the supply. This is indeed the conclusion of various predictions. But these need to be qualified, as many lithium deposits (whether in the form of mines or geothermal brines), particularly in Europe, have yet to be exploited.

There is also the battery recycling track. Remember that Tesla is already capable of recycling more than 92% of its batteries. Volkswagen plans to aim for 99% recycling. Enough to increase the supply of lithium. And it is also without counting on the reduction in the size of the batteries (as foreseen by Renault) thanks to an increasingly faster recharge that reduces the need for a long autonomy.

Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

However, Gill Pratt owns a Tesla Model X, but explains that despite its range exceeding 300 miles, it is only used for travel less than 50 kilometers each day. The rest of the large battery is thus just dead weight which is therefore useless. But this problem is more or less the same with plug-in hybrids, which also have a larger battery than a standard hybrid vehicle. A motorization that could end up disappearing anyway, at least in Europe.

According to Toyota, a crisis is to be expected and this future shortage will show that the choice of all-electric is not relevant. However, the firm continues to offer a 100% electric model in its range, the bZ4X. It also lifted the veil last October on its bZ3, a compact destined for China that should rival the Tesla Model 3. In December, the manufacturer took advantage of its anniversary to present its Hilux Revo BEV, a rival electric pick-up to Ford F-150 Lightning.

How much does Tesla recycle its batteries?

In its 2021 Impact Report, Tesla claims that it can recycle up to 92% of the materials used in a battery.
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