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EXCLUSIVE: After pressure from Toyota chief, Japan confirms support for hybrid cars

EXCLUSIVE: After pressure from Toyota chief, Japan confirms support for hybrid cars

TOKYO, June 24 (Reuters) – Toyota Motor Corp. (7203.T) The speaker of the House of Representatives pressed the Japanese government to make it clear it supports hybrid cars as much as electric batteries or face a loss of support for the auto industry, a top lawmaker said at a ruling party meeting.

The pressure from Akio Toyoda, Toyota’s president and head of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) industry group, comes as the automaker has faced increased scrutiny from green investors who say it has been slow to adopt battery electric vehicles. And they put pressure on governments to do so. Slow down the transition to them. Read more

Akira Amari, a former industry minister and veteran member of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), called for changes to the government’s annual economic policy roadmap at the June 3 meeting, saying he had spoken with Toyoda the day before, according to the Notes and Voice. From the meeting seen by Reuters.

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The final version of the document included a reference to “so-called electric vehicles” and appeared to put fossil-fuel hybrid cars on a par with zero-emissions battery vehicles, although environmentalists say there is a vast difference.

“I spoke with Chairman Toyoda yesterday and he said that the assembly cannot support a government that rejects hybrids,” Al-Ammari said at a political meeting of LDP deputies, according to the notes and the voice.

Amari said the use of synthetic fuels, such as hydrogen, would make hybrid cars “100 percent clean energy” and the policy document should make that clear.

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“If we don’t make it clear, JAMA will resist with all its might,” Amari said, according to the notes and the audio.

“If we don’t say hybrid cars are included in the electric vehicle category, that wouldn’t sound good,” he said, adding that the reference to electric-powered vehicles should be changed to “so-called electric-powered vehicles.”

Al-Ammari confirmed to Reuters that he requested the inclusion of “the so-called” to clarify that electric cars are not limited to cars powered by electric batteries, but rather include hybrid cars. He said he did not ask for any other changes.

He confirmed that he spoke to Toyoda.

“What Mr. Toyoda is trying to say is that hybrid cars that run on synthetic fuels are good for the environment because they are very fuel efficient. He said he would be very unhappy if hybrids were rejected. That’s what he told me. He asked if the LDP rejected hybrids.” And I said we didn’t do such a thing.”

Al-Amari told Reuters that by developing synthetic fuels, automakers will be able to produce zero-emission internal combustion engines. He said that such fuels could also be used in aircraft that do not run on battery power.

In a statement to Reuters, JAMA said the auto industry was doing its best to achieve its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050. It said that since the goal was carbon neutral, it was important to expand choices and not be limited to specific technologies.

It was also necessary to respond to the various situations and needs of customers in each country and region, she said.

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A Toyota spokesperson referred Reuters to Gama.

no longer a footnote

The final version of the document, available online, refers to Japan’s 2035 target for all new domestic vehicle sales of “so-called electric-powered vehicles,” and specifically mentions in the main text that these vehicles include hybrids.

A previous draft from May 31, also available online, shows reference to hybrids only in a footnote. The main text states that the 2035 goal is for all new car sales to be “electric cars”.

The annual policy document is of great importance to the government and serves as the framework for its future policy.

Toyota, the world’s largest automaker by sales, said fossil fuels, not internal combustion engines, were the problem. In addition to the hybrid cars it’s known for more than two decades ago with the Prius, it also supports hydrogen technology, although so far that hasn’t affected the way battery electric cars do.

Hybrid cars, including plug-in hybrid cars, made up nearly 44% of new passenger cars sold in Japan last year, while battery electric vehicles made up less than 1%, according to data from the Japan Automobile Dealers Association.

This does not include small cars, trucks or buses.

Energy and climate think-tank InfluenceMap has ranked Toyota among the worst among the major automakers due to its track record of lobbying on climate policy, which includes public statements and interactions with governments.

It has been criticized by its investors, including pension funds, for its pressure. Denmark’s AkademikerPension sold most of its stake in Toyota over the past year.

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Toyota last year allocated 8 trillion yen ($60 billion) to electrify its cars by 2030, with half of that going to developing battery electric vehicles. However, it expects annual sales of these vehicles to reach only 3.5 million vehicles by the end of the decade, or about a third of current sales.

On Thursday, Toyota said it was recalling more than 2,000 electric vehicles from its first mass-produced electric vehicle, the bZ4X SUV, less than two months after the vehicle was launched, due to the risk of losing the wheel. Read more

She says hybrid cars make sense in markets where the infrastructure isn’t ready to support the rapid transition to battery-powered cars, and that customers should have more options for cleaner technology.

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(Reporting by Makiko Yamazaki) Additional reporting by Nobuhiro Kubo, Maki Shiraki and Kaori Kaneko; Editing by David Dolan and Kim Coogle

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