The Japanese government has recently stated: stop selling thermal cars within 15 years. The goal is to transform the Rising Sun into a carbon-free country by 2050 and strengthen the use of renewable energy and hydrogen by 2030. According to CBS News, Japan will have to increase significantly the use of renewable and nuclear energy to reach its aim. Japanese carmakers, however, do not seem to agree and point out that Japan still gets most of its electricity from burning coal and natural gas on the other hand, electric vehicles will actually have little impact on improving environmental and climatic conditions.

Toyota’s number one and president of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association, Akio Toyoda, has recently said that battery-powered cars aren’t printless on the environment (as the heads of Croatian Rimac and Swedish Polestar had already admitted) and the car industry business could come out with broken bones from this running to the electric. “Electric vehicles are overrated and have an excessive hype, not justified either on an environmental or economic level,” says Toyoda. The problem lies both in the amount of carbon dioxide emissions of the electricity production that powers the cars and the one necessary to produce the batteries. According to Toyoda, not only do they prove to have an impact on the ecosystem but also on the social costs of the energy transition above all; moreover, they would not lead to climate benefits.

Akio Toyoda

Toyota’s president seems to be addressing specifically to the current Japanese electricity grid, which would not be able to satisfy the energy demand for the number of entirely battery-powered cars circulating in the country, without equipping the country with the necessary infrastructure network. This investment would be up to 300 billion euros. “When politicians make it clear they want to get rid of all traditional cars – explains Toyoda – do they understand what this would imply?”.

In Japan, the electricity production is still strictly linked to coal and natural gas. Fossil fuels are the basis of energy supply both in the USA and Europe. Right here, the thermoelectric energy is about 45% of the total amount of energy produces, while another substantial share of 12% comes from nuclear power which, however, is not considered a renewable source. According to Eurostat, renewable energy was 19.7% of the total energy cunsumption in 2019 (in 2018 it was 14.6%). The production of green energy is constantly increasing, but in terms of consumption it is still at a low percentage and therefore there is still a lot to do.

Share of energy products in total energy available in 2018
Overall share of energy from renewable sources in 2018

The top manager explains very clearly that “the more electric vehicles we produce, the higher the carbon dioxide emission level”. And all this seems to be specifically related to the batteries which, exactly in the production phase, almost double the total CO2 emissions of an electric car comparing to those generated in manufacturing a thermal or hybrid car. Hence the two priorities highly recommended by the Toyota’s CEO: first of all making the production of electricity greener and then updating the infrastructures and not only working towards selling zero-emission cars. What seems making the top manager doubt is this acceleration to the energy transition that risks “making the current automotive industry business model collapse” according to Toyoda; causing the loss of millions of jobs as well as making the zero emission mobility a luxury for the few.

In the meantime, however, Toyota has announced the launch of six new zero-emission models by 2025 which will accompany the use of solid-state batteries, the improving evolution of current lithium-ion. In Toyoda’s speech it is therefore necessary to read between the lines: on one hand a huge concern is clear and well founded, on the other, there is probably both the fear the Toyota hybrid leadership will be questioned after all their investments and the fact they are the few producers worldwide, who have decided to invest in hydrogen, the most logical final choice for the mobility of the future, to them. We shall see what effect these claims will have on the market and the development of petrol and Diesel engines.


  • Il Sole 24 Ore – The Toyota CEO, the electric car business immature unsustainable energy and social costs
  • Il Fatto quotidiano – Akio Toyoda, frontal attack on the electric car: “It is overrated, it will collapse the industry”
  • Motori online – Japan: sales of thermal cars to stop within 15 years. Toyota is not happy
  • EU Official website – Renewable energy statistics 2019
  • EU Official website – Renewable energy statistics 2018

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