Toyota, Honda, and Nissan have a lot of work to do when it comes to decarbonization.
There was a time when it seemed as though Japanese automakers were at the forefront of electrification and more environmentally-friendly vehicles, but a new Greenpeace study that ranked the world's top carmakers on their climate change efforts demonstrates how much things have changed. Cars like the Toyota Prius, Honda Clarity, and Nissan Leaf helped to put hybrids on the map, but each of these carmakers has been more reluctant to embrace EVs - at least, not at the speed of their European, Korean, and American rivals. Greenpeace didn't mince its words when relegating these three companies behind other automotive giants in their efforts to combat climate change.
Each major automaker was given a score out of 100 based on factors such as supply chain decarbonization, 2021 sales of zero-emission vehicles, the phase-out of combustion-powered models, and resource reduction and efficiency. Toyota was ranked last out of the assessed group with an overall score of just 10 out of 100, only slightly better than Honda (12.8/100) and Nissan (13.4/100). On the other end of the spectrum, General Motors achieved a score of 38.5/100. As recently as July, Toyota's chief scientist said that the world isn't ready for EVs. With the brand's leadership making statements like this, its low Greenpeace score and the fact that just 0.18% of its 2021 sales were for zero-emissions vehicles (ZEV) come as little surprise.
The Toyota bZ4X is the brand's only EV on sale in the USA but a single crossover isn't going to do it. Consider GM, which already has the Chevy Bolt and Cadillac Lyriq, along with a string of other EVs that have been revealed in recent months.
Greenpeace said that Toyota still has a "poor level of climate policy engagement at home and abroad." Nissan and Honda are the only two companies in the top ten with a transition to ZEVs that is slower than the global transition rate, and Greenpeace says Honda and Toyota are doing much less than other carmakers in the area of supply chain decarbonization.
The environmental organization has called on all automakers to fast-track the development of zero-carbon steel and to purchase low-carbon steel. Interestingly, Greenpeace has said that automakers should make fewer SUVs as these vehicles use 20% more steel than the average car.
Greenpeace pointed to a lack of commitment across the board for automakers when looking to decarbonize steel. None of the ten automakers have a specific steel decarbonization target "even though the material accounts for at least 60% of the weight of a vehicle and 50% of the carbon footprint from materials manufacturing."
Elsewhere on the list of the top ten carmakers, Mercedes-Benz has shot up to second with a score of 37/100. Its score was bolstered by ambitious targets for the phasing out of ICE models. Already, the German marque has begun culling its legendary V8 engine as four-cylinder hybridized models replace them. Volkswagen (33.3/100) rounded out the top three but dropped one spot from last year, and Ford (23.5/100) came in fourth spot, up four spots.
Hyundai/Kia (22.3), Renault (20.3), and Stellantis (19.3) occupy the fifth, sixth, and seventh positions in the Greenpeace chart. Greenpeace said that although it welcomed the growth of the battery-electric vehicle market, there is much more work to be done to meet the European Union's proposed regulation of a 2035 ban on combustion cars. California has set the same date to ban the sale of gas cars. In addition, more EVs are needed to "stay within the 1.5-degree Celsius goal agreed in Paris to save us from the worst impacts of climate change."
North America has its own issues, with Greenpeace pointing out that carmakers like GM and Honda are relying heavily on Chinese EV sales, whereas the percentage of EVs sold in the United States is far lower.
It remains to be seen if Toyota will stick to its guns and electrify its fleet at a pace it deems logical, or if mounting pressure from environmental groups will encourage the Japanese marque to reconsider its stance.