Mass EV adoption involves major challenges – Toyota

Mass EV adoption involves major challenges – Toyota

Never has the idea of electric cars been so hotly pursued and consequently debated as it is today. It’s the future of the automotive industry, they say, but a senior Toyota executive will soon be expressing his skepticism on widespread EV adoption before US senators.

Toyota Motor North America director of energy and environmental research, Robert Wimmer, said the plans for car manufacturers to phase out the internal combustion engine must overcome many obstacles. Wimmer is set to testify at the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on March 23.

According to an advance copy of his statements that was shown to Reuters, Wimmer said: “If we are to make dramatic progress in electrification, it will require overcoming tremendous challenges, including refueling infrastructure, battery availability, consumer acceptance and affordability.”

He noted that, while some car brands have made aspirational statements and laid out ambitious transitional plans, less than 2% of vehicles sold in the US in 2020 were fully electric. Wimmer also highlighted that it took Toyota 20 years to sell more than four million hybrid cars in the US.

Besides customer acceptance, the EV infrastructure, specifically the charging network, is another very costly investment. At a recent news conference for the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association, Toyota chairman Akio Toyoda said Japan would run out of electricity by summer if all the cars on the road were fully electric.

Toyoda added that the cost to develop an infrastructure that would completely support the EV transition will cost the Japanese government the equivalent of up to US$358 billion (RM1.47 trillion).

Cost aside, there is also a massive environmental challenge to overcome. A Thomson Reuters report states that, in the US, around 30% of electricity is generated by the burning of coal. In China, that figure is doubled. Globally, roughly 37% of the world’s electricity comes from burning coal.

Currently, the EV movement champions climate neutrality. But if the demand for electric cars skyrockets over the period of this decade, just how much of that growing demand can be fulfilled with clean energy? According to best estimates, the growth in EV adoption could see a monumental 300-fold increase in electricity consumption by 2040, compared to 2016.

Mass EV adoption involves major challenges – Toyota

To cope, the energy grid will need to evolve significantly, and at a pace never before seen. But this shift to clean energy is not without its own environmental, economic, and legislative impact. One could argue that oil refineries and coal-burning powerplants may soon be a thing of the past, but in their place will be solar farms and battery manufacturing facilities, the latter involving processing lithium, cobalt and other rare earths. Battery recyclability is also another concern.

As for solar farms, new studies have found that the photovoltaic panels can only convert 15% of the sunlight they absorb into electricity, with the rest being emitted as heat. This, again, adversely affects the climate due to a phenomenon known as feedback loop. This is caused by steep temperature and air pressure differences, which could bring about undesirable environmental consequences even in the naturally arid expanse of the Sahara, for example.

All this to say, it’s easy to get mesmerised by a company’s grand vision for a greener planet. The EV hype is also exacerbated by the potential thrill behind the wheel – everyone loves a car with rocketing acceleration. But we are just at the beginning of the EV revolution, and as history has shown, every action has a consequence. Just how ready is the world ready for a full electric future?

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Matthew H Tong

An ardent believer that fun cars need not be fast and fast cars may not always be fun. Matt advocates the purity and simplicity of manually swapping cogs while coping in silence of its impending doom. Matt's not hot. Never hot.



  • Green Dog on Mar 23, 2021 at 7:34 pm

    More EVs coming. That’s why free pollution will be important for us in future

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2
    • before incoming EVs … jom try Toyota Corolla Cross first

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0
    • Civic Turbo 2018 on Mar 23, 2021 at 8:36 pm

      Toyota can happy selling VVTi forever

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 4
      • So forever? But Toyota will not sell VVTi forever in future. Toyota are moving on by bringing advanced technologies like EV and Hybrid

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0
    • george on Mar 24, 2021 at 5:58 am

      The electricity came from coal powered plant, very pollution free. It can also consume morenelectricity since now industries, household and vehicle have to use the same resource.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0
      • hantu raya on Mar 24, 2021 at 10:25 am

        carbon footprint shifting, thats all. the future is molten salt nuclear reactors, not ‘renewables” that require too much land or kill too much of wildlife like solar and wind farms.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1
    • energia on Mar 24, 2021 at 3:54 pm

      there will be an increase of coal pollution from electric powerplants.

      increase of unrecyclable carbon fiber composites due to the need of lightweight materials.

      also increase in battery and electronic waste

      clean electric energy is just a myth. the pollution is just shifted into another form.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0
  • Better to adopt Rechargeable seawater battery EV which nonflammable and more easily recycled than batteries that employ NiMh & Li-on toxic or flammable materials.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0
  • Dong gor on Mar 23, 2021 at 8:15 pm

    Just go with the flow as a car mfg and produce some affordable and exciting product. The test, let it be power generation or green environment, let the authorities take care of it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  • If Elon Musk had the mindset of Akio Toyoda, he would just be another average Joe. Get over it, change is painful but part of life, start investing. Toyota doesn’t need the reminder of Kodak, Nokia and Ericsson

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 6
  • Contradiction on Mar 23, 2021 at 11:16 pm

    Even Toyota knows this is a far bigger challenge to adopt just like our country but they are also the same brand that is promoting this

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0
  • Aero (Member) on Mar 24, 2021 at 4:50 am

    Toyota has never been a huge proponent of pure electric vehicles. Although Toyota was one of the first and most successful with hybrid electric cars, the architecture and design philosophy of hybrids are very different from pure electric cars. For hybrids, the electric power serves to supplement the combustion engine, not replace it.

    Toyota initially advocated for hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, and they were one of the first to launch a hydrogen-powered car about a decade back. But when mass-market battery electric cars like the Nissan Leaf and Tesla started to gain ground, Toyota made a huge U-turn and joined the EV race. Now Toyota is one of the LAST major car companies to develop mass-market EVs. They know they have a lot of catching up to do.

    Still, hydrogen fuel-cell power is more efficient (longer range), more convenient (can fully refuel in minutes) and more eco-friendly (production of hydrogen fuel emits less CO2 than typical electricity production) than battery electric. But it’s a lot more expensive to mass produce hydrogen fuel and the infrastructure investments for hydrogen fuel stations are even more costly.

    Personally, I never really believed in battery-powered electric cars. The nature of electricity production is already not sustainable or eco-friendly using typical fossil fuel powered plants. Renewable sources like solar and wind power take up too much real estate. Hydropower can have severe environmental effects. Nuclear power is actually the best option, but it’s expensive and risky. To make matters worse, the batteries in electric cars are made from non-renewable rare earth materials. Hydrogen fuel-cells also have rare metals in them.

    To put it simply, electric car adoption will only SHIFT the problem, not solve it. Neither electricity generation nor battery technology / production has reached sustainable levels. And not all is doom and gloom for the combustion engine, because we know the latest petrol powered engines are more efficient and eco-friendly than ever. Downsizing, direct injection and turbocharging has also become mainstream now. The Euro 7 standard is just ahead as well.

    Personally, I think it’s a huge shame how more and more governments are shunning decades of progress in combustion engines, only to gamble everything on the fledgling and still-unproven electric car. Don’t forget that only decades ago, these same governments hailed green diesel as the ‘next big thing’, and we all know what happened next.

    Now it seems the world is trending towards battery electric cars, for better or worse. And if other governments and car companies don’t react and adapt now, they might not survive long enough to see the next ‘next big thing’ in car propulsion (maglev in conjunction with Level 5 ?). Hopefully that time will come sooner than later, because battery-powered cars are just another stopgap in the grand scheme of things. And Toyota, being a genuine car (and not tech) company, probably knows this better than anyone else.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0
  • Izhar on Mar 24, 2021 at 6:02 am

    That’s why Malaysia just playing waiting game? The EV is more than triple the price of ICE car. The petrol will getting cheaper. We have planted more palm oil tree to counter the emissions release by ICE cars. Ibthink it is just a hype which started by Elon Musk. Environmnetal? Can you imagine all the rare earth materials consumed? Even today we already hit by chips shortage. The answer is, use just what you need to use. It is more sustain.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 2
  • taiwanchingchong on Mar 25, 2021 at 2:46 pm

    You never heard of rechargeable Liquid Metal battery invented by AMBRI?No exotic rare earth metal no toxic, no overheating or explosion issues. The only downside is size and weigh.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

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