When Toyota first unveiled the Toyota Prius hybrid back in 1997, it did so with the bold claim that it would revolutionize the automotive world forever. And while many might dispute the conceit that it revolutionized the automotive world, credit is certainly due to Toyota for mass-marketing the hybrid car and making it something acceptable among a large proportion of car buyers.
With that success now under its belt, Toyota is keen to set itself up again as an industry leader, this time with a focus on hydrogen fuel cell technology and its first production hydrogen fuel cell car, the limited-production 2016 Toyota Mirai fuel cell sedan.
With the Toyota Mirai already on sale in Japan, recently launched in Europe and due to officially begin deliveries tomorrow in the U.S., much of Toyota’s PR efforts are focused on its belief that hydrogen fuel cell technology will help bring about a revolution in the way we fuel our cars.
But on Friday, Toyota’s headquarters in Japan quietly released its Sixth Environmental Action Plan, promising a 90 percent global reduction in average new-vehicle carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 compared to 2010 figures, as well as having a suite of energy-saving and carbon neutral practices at its production facilities around the world.
Split into three separate sections entitled “Ever-better cars,” “Ever-better manufacturing,” and “Enriching lives of communities,” Toyota’s document lays out its plan to achieve annual global sales of over 30,000 hydrogen fuel cell vehicles some time around 2020, with at least 10,000 of those taking place in Japan. In addition, the document calls for sales of hydrogen fuel cell busses through Toyota’s commercial division by early 2017, culminating in a total of 100 fuel cell busses on the roads of Japan ahead of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
At the same time, it hopes to achieve a total of 1.5 million sales per year by 2020, resulting in a cumulative Toyota hybrid sales total since the Prius launched of 15 million hybrids. Similarly, it wishes to lower average carbon dioxide emissions from its new vehicles by more than 22 percent compared to 2010 levels by 2020, before slashing that to 90 percent of 2010 levels by 2050.
But alongside its focus on hydrogen and hybrid drivetrains, Toyota says it will invest in improving electrified powertrains, developing next-generation battery technologies such as solid state battery packs in order to produce a new range of electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.
Known for its use of nickel metal-hydride battery packs, Toyota has previously dismissed current electric car battery technology as not ready for mass-market adoption, despite evidence to the contrary from automakers like Nissan, Tesla and BMW, the latter of which happens to have a partnership with Toyota to develop and improve battery vehicle technology.
While this goal is second to Toyota’s plans to develop a ‘hydrogen-based society’ in which it will work with governments and infrastructure providers to promote and develop hydrogen refuelling stations across the world, it shows that despite its very public attempts to dismiss electric vehicles altogether, Toyota perhaps has its own doubts about focusing on just one fuel technology moving forward.
In terms of manufacturing, Toyota said in its formula plan that it aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions at its production facilities in the coming years, with a short-term goal of reducing CO2 output from all of its facilities to half of what it was in 2001 by 2020, and a third of the same 2001 level by 2030. Twenty years after that, it promises that it will use renewable energy and hydrogen-based power generation to “Completely eliminate CO2 emissions” from its production facilities.
Alongside improving its energy usage policies, Toyota says it will also work to introduce water recycling programs at every facility, using less water and recycling as much of the water it uses as possible.
Some of those reductions it says will come from the use of more energy-efficient practices and more energy-efficient machinery at its plant, while the rest will come from using biomass, wind power and hydroelectricity — as well as hydrogen-generated electricity — to reduce its carbon emissions.
What isn’t mentioned in the document however is where the hydrogen fuel Toyota aims to use at its facilities to create electricity will come from. At the moment, the majority of hydrogen is produced from the reprocessing of fossil fuels, meaning there’s still an inherent carbon footprint. In order to be truly environmentally responsible in its use of hydrogen fuel technology, Toyota will need to not only source renewably-generated hydrogen, but also ensure any water produced from the process of combining hydrogen and oxygen to release electricity and water is recycled in an appropriate way.
Other highlights of Toyota’s Sixth Environmental Action Plan include a commitment to implementing vehicular dismantling and recycling programs for end-of-life vehicles so that older cars can be recycled into parts for newer models. as well as an ongoing commitment to continue its tree-planting and habitat restoration activities.
What do you think of Toyota’s plan for the future? Will the Japanese automaker follow through with its plans, or is it just greenwashing?
Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.
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