Toyota CEO Says ‘Silent Majority’ Doubts Pursuing Only EVs

Akio Toyoda, the President of Toyota Motor Corp., has expressed doubts about the exclusively electric vehicles (EVs) and has argued that EVs should be seen as just one option among others, such as hybrids and hydrogen-powered cars, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports.

“People involved in the auto industry are largely a silent majority,” Mr. Toyoda said to reporters in Thailand. “That silent majority is wondering whether EVs are really OK to have as a single option. But they think it’s the trend so they can’t speak out loudly.”

According to Mr. Toyoda, alternatives to electric vehicles, such as hydrogen-powered vehicles, are starting to gain more support from government officials, the media, and other players in the automotive industry. “Two years ago, I was the only person making these kinds of statements,” he said.

Toyoda’s comments reflect growing concerns within the automotive industry about the speed of the transition to EVs and the challenges involved, including securing parts and raw materials for batteries.

These concerns have emerged amid robust demand for the limited number of EV models that are currently available and as EV prices have risen significantly this year.

Despite this, major rivals such as General Motors and Honda have set dates for when their lineups will be all-EV, while Toyota has stuck to a strategy of investing in a diverse range of vehicles, including hydrogen-powered cars and hybrids, which combine batteries with gas engines.

Toyota has said that it sees hybrids, which it invented with the Prius in the 1990s, as an important option when EVs remain expensive and charging infrastructure is still being developed in many parts of the world.

The company is also developing zero-emission vehicles powered by hydrogen.

Toyoda has tried to convey the idea that limiting ourselves to just one option may not be the best approach, given that the right answer is still unclear.

“Because the right answer is still unclear, we shouldn’t limit ourselves to just one option,” Mr. Toyoda said, before explaining how he’s made an effort to communicate this point to industry stakeholders, including government officials, over the past few years, though he has found it tiring at times.

Other major automakers are skeptical about a “fully electric future,” too. Per WSJ:

Mr. Toyoda’s long-held skepticism about a fully electric future has been shared by others in the Japanese car industry, as well.

Mazda Motor Corp. executives once cautioned that whether EVs were cleaner depends largely on where the electricity is produced. They also worried that EV batteries were too big and expensive to replace gas-powered models and better suited to the types of smaller vehicles that Americans didn’t want.

Nissan Motor Co. , which launched the all-electric Leaf over a decade ago, had until recently taken a more cautious stance on EVs with executives saying they were waiting to see how the demand would materialize.

Nissan Chief Executive Makoto Uchida said the company moved too aggressively with the Leaf early on, but lately demand for EVs has been growing faster than many had initially expected. Nissan said last year it would spend roughly $14.7 billion to roll out new battery-powered models. Now, Mr. Uchida said it may need to spend more.

The wild card, he said, is regulations and government subsidies globally that could speed adoption even more. “Would that be enough? The answer is it may not be,” Mr. Uchida said.

Mr. Toyoda has argued that fully electric models aren’t the only way to reduce carbon emissions, saying hybrid vehicles sold in large volumes can also deliver a short-term impact. “It’s about what can be done now,” he said.