As the world moves towards electric vehicles, Toyota keeps banging a different zero-emission drum: Hydrogen. Between the production Mirai and hydrogen-powered concepts with manual transmissions or big V8 power, the company clearly views hydrogen-powered vehicles as part of our automotive future. Incoming CEO Koji Sato, speaking at an endurance race in which Toyota campaigned a hydrogen racer, seems to agree.
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True, Toyota has introduced more electrification to its lineup — cars like the sought-after plug-in hybrid Rav4 Prime or the all-electric bZ4X — but its push towards EVs has thus far lagged behind other automakers of similar size. Sato intends to change that, with more attention paid to battery-powered vehicles, but it seems he isn’t willing to leave hydrogen behind.
Automotive News reported on Sato’s statements, in which he talked about keeping hydrogen a “viable option” despite pushing an accelerated EV timeline. Yet, it seems he isn’t expecting consumers to keep up with Toyota’s big plans — when asked about targeted sales numbers, Sato replied, “We don’t have a very specific business goal at this time.”
Toyota’s status as a dominant automaker in the coming decades may depend on its zero-emissions plans. With more and more jurisdictions moving to ban the sale of new internal-combustion cars at some future date, manufacturers will need new, advanced vehicles to fill in the gap. Yet Toyota’s commitment to splitting zero-emissions development between batteries and hydrogen may hamper its efforts. After all, only a tiny number of hydrogen refueling stations exist worldwide, and Toyota doesn’t want to foot the bill to change that. In Sato’s words, “It’s not that Toyota will take a proactive lead in making these investments.”
Hydrogen has long been a passion project of Toyota’s, and it seems that will continue under Sato’s tenure as CEO. But with the days of ICE vehicles drawing to a close, and the push towards EVs growing ever stronger, one has to wonder if Toyota’s barking up the wrong tree.