Akio Toyoda: California, US EV targets will be hard to achieve

LAS VEGAS – Ambitious targets for electric vehicle sales – in California or nationwide – will be hard to achieve by 2030 or 2035, Akio Toyoda told reporters Thursday.

Regarding California’s rule calling for a ban on the sale of gasoline-burning vehicles by 2035, the Toyota Motor Corp. CEO said: “Realistically speaking, it seems rather difficult to really achieve that.”

He added that a potential national goal of 50 percent zero-emission vehicles by 2030 would be “very difficult.”

As a global automaker serving 200 countries, Toyota must take into account the wide variety of conditions in those various markets, including the needs of the 1 billion or so people who don’t have reliable access to electricity.

Through a translator, he cautioned that regulations “tend to narrow the options available for solutions toward carbon neutrality.”

Longer term, he sees hydrogen combustion as a compelling offering. In the short term, hybrids may provide the greatest good, he suggested, noting that Toyota can produce eight plug-in hybrids with 40 miles of electric range for every 320-mile battery-electric vehicle and save up to eight times the carbon emitted into the atmosphere.

Toyoda, here for the automaker’s annual dealer meeting, on Thursday, met with a handful of journalists to discuss carbon neutrality and the auto industry’s role in slowing global warming. He also addressed the impression that Toyota is behind in the race to bring EVs to market.

Electric vehicles “are just going to take longer than the media would like us to believe,” Toyoda told the dealers during their meeting. He pledged to offer the “widest possible” array of powertrains to propel cars cleanly. “That’s our strategy and we’re sticking to it.”

“Some are racing to a finish line of all-electric,” he said in the prepared remarks released prior to his meeting with journalists. Toyoda is working in all markets and segments to reduce carbon emissions as rapidly as possible and “does not see a finish line until Toyota gets to carbon neutrality.”

In prepared remarks, he said Toyota is “balancing the infrastructure we have today with the energy we need for tomorrow.”

Late last year, Toyota committed 8 trillion yen (worth $70 billion at the time) to electrify its lineup by 2030half of it to develop a battery EV lineup, as it looks to tap a growing market for zero-emission vehicles.

Toyota expects its sales of full-electric cars to reach only 3.5 million vehicles by the end of the decade, or just over a third of its current global volume.

The company plans to introduce 30 EVs by 2030, but even its large investment plans are less grand than those of GM and Ford.

Toyota’s luxury Lexus arm aims to have a full lineup of battery EVs in all vehicle segments by 2030 and for battery EVs to make up 100 percent of its global sales in 2035 in Europe, North America, and China — totaling 1 million units globally.

In addition, Toyota has committed $3.8 billion to build a factory in North Carolina to make batteries for hybrids and EVs.

The CEO said a lack of sufficient infrastructure will hold back EV adoption rates, which is a factor in its decision not to go all in on electricity to the exclusion of hybrids or hydrogen-combustion or hydrogen fuel cells.

“Toyota is a department store of all sorts of powertrains,” he told reporters. “It’s not right for the department store to say, ‘This is the product you should buy.’”

Bloomberg contributed to this report.