The automaker testified before Senators. Here's what was said.
General Motors may be the first American automaker to announce plans to adopt battery electrification across its entire future lineup, and it won't be the last. Already, Ford of Europe has made the same commitment, as have Volvo, Jaguar, and Mini. The world's former most valuable automaker is no immediate rush, however. Toyota sent its director of Energy and Environmental Research, Rober Wimmer, to testify before US senators earlier this week to convince them that phasing out combustion engines completely is no easy (and cheap) task.
Per Reuters, Wimmer told the Senate panel the following: "If we are to make dramatic progress in electrification, it will require overcoming tremendous challenges, including refueling infrastructure, battery availability, consumer acceptance and affordability."
Despite bold EV-related statements from rival automakers, Wimmer pointed out that less than two percent of vehicles sold in the US last year were pure battery electrics. Although a growing number of consumers are warming to the idea of buying EVs, there are still concerns regarding charging-related issues, ownership costs, and even battery fires. It's not that Toyota is completely against an industry-wide changeover to BEVs, it simply recognizes that it'll require more time than the 14 years until GM's pledge kicks in.
Wimmer pointed out it took Toyota 20 years to sell over 4 million hybrids. The automaker made waves nearly 25 years ago when it launched the first series-production hybrid, the Toyota Prius.
Later this year, it plans to unveil a new EV prototype with advanced solid-state battery technology. A production version will go on sale by 2025. Battery electrics are not the only form of electrification Toyota is dabbling in. It has also made huge strides in hydrogen fuel cell technology and already launched a second-generation featuring this powertrain, the 2021 Mirai. Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda has made no effort to hide his belief that nations, particularly his home country of Japan, is nowhere near ready for battery electrics, citing specifically the lack of a broad charging infrastructure.
The Biden administration, meanwhile, announced an initiative in January to replace the federal government's gas-powered vehicle fleet with electric vehicles. It'll be interesting to see if Toyota's lobbying will have an effect.