Why Is Toyota Rooting for Hydrogen and Not Electric Cars?
When Toyota first launched its gas-electric hybrid car, Prius, it received all the love and appreciation of environmentalists and conservationists. It, in fact, became the preferred car maker for people who promoted sustainable solutions to protect the environment. Moreover, Toyota was even the early investor in EV giant Tesla.
These efforts reflected the company’s vision and seriousness towards protecting the environment from carbon emissions from fuel-based cars.
Unfortunately, despite being the pioneers of early hybrid cars, nothing more ground-breaking churned out of its labs. On the contrary, the country sold off its Tesla stocks. After that, the company slowly has become an EV opposer. Toyota even lobbied to slow down the transition to EVs. Even its attempt to produce a fully electric SUV did not go smoothly, so it had to call back these vehicles. The company is committed to its hydrogen-fueled cells EV, Mirai now.
Big motor companies like Ford and Volkswagen are trying to make their way into EVs, but why are Toyota’s efforts so underwhelming?
Why Is Toyota Obsessed With Hydrogen?
Despite being the early producer of a gas-electric hybrid vehicle, the company failed to upgrade its EV production architecture. Toyota’s EV manufacturing facility is inefficient and expensive compared to other electric car manufacturers like Tesla.
So, why is a company not actively working on improving its electric car manufacturing facilities?
One of the main reasons that Toyota is not fully transitioning to EV production is that it wants to promote hydrogen cars. The company believes that any automaker’s commitment towards a “carbon-free green future” cannot be ascertained only by their EV production. There are other ways to become a carbon-neutral company by navigating other alternatives.
So, the company is more committed to producing its logistically-difficult hydrogen cars like Mirai to open avenues for hydrogen cars. Toyota is also openly lobbying to try to slow down electric motors adoption in the west.
Hydrogen cars have zero-carbon emissions compared to EVs, are refueled fast, and use renewable energy sources. So, in books, it seems a perfect and even better alternative to electric vehicles.
Unfortunately, there are some problems with hydrogen cars. Hydrogen vehicles are more expensive than electric cars due to expensive raw materials and processes. Refueling them is expensive and inconvenient due to the lack of infrastructure. Hydrogen fuel cells are complicated and inflammable, so hydrogen cars are dangerous.
Then, let’s not go into the maintenance process. Hydrogen vehicles have very complex maintenance than an EV. Additionally, these cars require maintenance more frequently even.
Regardless of these challenges, this automaker cannot shake the idea of hydrogen cars. Toyota is, in fact, obsessed with hydrogen.
The question is, why? Let’s try to make sense of the rationale.
Japan’s Energy Crisis — Hydrogen Energy Source & Toyota
As you know, Japan is an island with no neighboring countries. To meet its energy needs, it has to import expensive oil and fossil fuels. Since it is an island, everything ships through the sea, making everything more expensive. The country imports more than 90% of its energy, making it dependent on other countries to fulfill its needs. This heavy dependence on other countries put Japan in a very disadvantaged position against the countries that supply energy.
The country even tried to go to the nuclear energy route, which proved to be a disaster. It was the worse nuclear disaster after Chernobyl.
So, Japan is facing an extreme energy crisis.
In these tough times, hydrogen gave a little glimmer of hope. The country has abundant hydrogen sources that it needs to extract from the ocean around it. So, for the first time since its existence, Japan came up with some alternative energy in the form of hydrogen.
So, when Japan wants to switch to hydrogen, it does not necessarily have “going green” and “carbon-free” aspirations. Japan is desperate to do it, considering dwindling expensive foreign energy sources.
Toyota, the biggest company in Japan, does everything to support the country’s vision. So, when Toyota tries to promote hydrogen and talk against EVs, it is not necessarily against EVs. It just wants to promote the energy beneficial for its home country.
Is This Worth It for Toyota? Final Thoughts
For now, Toyota is not fully committing to EVs fully because it believes in hydrogen. These hydrogen cars thought right now, seem far-fetched, but over the years, they can be perfected and made for the masses. The added advantage is that hydrogen is a renewable energy source that has zero-emission, so depending on such fuel is not a bad idea.
Additionally, its home country is facing an energy crisis, so pursuing its country’s vision is not a bad bet. Besides Japan, China has also set up huge hydrogen plants to meet its energy needs.
So, it is not necessarily a bad move to pursue hydrogen or even hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles.
Only times can tell if this pioneer automaker’s refusal to jump on the electric vehicle bandwagon was a bad gamble, considering the dwindling energy sources in the world.