Toyota still doesn’t believe in electric cars and explains why

If Toyota recently launched its first electric car, the bZ4X, the Japanese firm has never believed in this engine and is not afraid to report on it. This time, the chief scientist of the company explains the reasons for this distrust, which has been going on for several years. But he forgets some information…

Toyota bZ4X // Source: Etienne Roville

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Today, all manufacturers plan to be 100% electric in the near future. Everyone, really? And no, because one brand resists again and again. It’s probably the only engine that will be allowed in Europe from 2035, but Toyota never believed in this engine. And the Japanese brand isn’t afraid to say it loud and clear to anyone who wants to hear it.

Dangerous energy

Last October, Toyota said that hybrid cars would be as clean as electric models, and that adoption of this extreme motorization would not necessarily matter. Last December The former head of the brand, Akio Toyoda, has now been replaced by Koji Sato put back the cover, ” electricity is not the solution“.

The leader further explained that “ People who work in the automotive industry are part of the silent majority » and this « questions its relevance consider electric cars as the only option“. Then why such distrust? Here, Gill Pratt, chief scientist at Toyota, answers this question that has been bothering us.

For the latter, this will be associated with strong demand, especially for lithium, and markedly declining reserves. It’s gotten to the point where manufacturers fear a shortage of batteries for their electric cars in the coming years after semiconductors. According to the scientist, it would be more logical distribute this material in hybrid vehicles rather than offering vehicles powered by a single energy source.

As we know, electric ones need bigger batteries to show long autonomy. Except that the weight is then greater and this reduces the distance that can be traveled with one load. It is a snake biting its own tail. And who says bigger batteries mean increased costs, and lithium is getting more and more expensive.

Electric cars vs. hybrids

But that’s not all. Because apart from logistical concerns, betting on a hybrid would also be more relevant from an environmental point of view. Gill offers a simulation transmitted by Pratt Automotive News explains it to us in more detail. For this, the scientist takes 100 thermal cars that give up 250 g/km. If there is enough lithium stock to make a 100 kWh battery, two options are possible.

Then it is possible just create one big accumulator and put it in an electric car like the Tesla Model S, but the other 99 cars will still be powered by an internal combustion engine that emits CO2 in use, an average of 248.5g/km across all 100 cars.

The best solution, according to Toyota, would be to create smaller batteries and use the same resources to power 90 hybrid vehicles. Thus, the average emission will drop to 205 g/km.

Future nuances

However, the engineer’s statement can be justified. This takes into account one limitation: the fact that there is a finite amount of lithium due to demand rather than supply. This is really the result of several predictions. But these must be compatible, as many lithium deposits (either as mines or as geothermal salts) are still being exploited, especially in Europe.

There is also a way to recycle the battery. Remember that Tesla can now recycle over 92% of its batteries. Volkswagen plans to recycle 99%. Enough to increase the supply of lithium. Nor does it count on shrinking batteries (as Renault plans) thanks to ever-faster charging that reduces the need for long autonomy.

Let’s also note an interesting track, and not the most important: sodium batteries that do not use lithium. These batteries should be integrated into electric cars from the end of 2023, thanks to the Chinese giant CATL (we owe the battery with 1000 km of autonomy charged in 10 minutes). The first models could be city cars from Chinese manufacturer BYD, even if the latter denies the rumours.

The disadvantage of sodium batteries is that they have a lower energy density than lithium batteries. But this made it possible to dramatically increase this density without relying on future solid-state batteries.

Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

However, Gill Pratt owns a Tesla Model X, but he explains that despite its 480km range, it is only used. he travels less than 50 kilometers every day. Therefore, the rest of the large battery is just dead weight and therefore useless. But this problem is more or less the same with plug-in hybrids, which have a larger battery than a standard hybrid car. A motorization that may disappear anyway, at least in Europe.

According to Toyota, the crisis is to be expected, and these future shortages will prove it the full electric option is not relevant. Despite this, the firm still offers a 100% electric model in its range, the bZ4X. It also unveiled the compact bZ3 last October, which is slated for China and could rival the Tesla Model 3. In December, the manufacturer took advantage of its anniversary to introduce Ford’s electric pick-up rival, the Hilux Revo BEV. F-150 Lightning.

How much does Tesla recycle its batteries?

In its 2021 Impact Report, Tesla claims that it can recycle 92% of the materials used in the battery.
Read more


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