Toyota has become the latest global auto giant to announce sweeping plans to expand its line-up of electric vehicles (EVs) and decarbonize its operations over the coming decades.
The Japanese auto giant has been facing mounting criticism in recent years over its perceived failure to match the growing number of car manufacturers to announce ambitious EV plans, as it instead sought to build on its position as a leader in the hybrid market.
However, last week it announced the launch of Toyota bZ, its newly established series of battery electric vehicles (BEVs), as it unveiled a concept version of the Toyota bZ4X at the Auto Shanghai motor show.
The move came as the company also pledged to achieve "carbon neutrality" by 2050 as part of a new "home planet" strategy. "In the course of our global business activities, Toyota will promote electrification strategies that contribute to reducing CO2 emissions throughout the entire lifecycle of a vehicle, while consulting with governments on how to improve the environment for the promotion of electrification," the company said in a statement. "In addition, we will review and disclose information to confirm our public policy engagement activities are consistent with the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement by the end of this year, and will strive to provide enhanced information disclosure so that as many stakeholders as possible can understand our activities."
As part of the plan the company also announced a new goal to have 70 electrified models on the market by 2025, including 15 battery electric vehicles.
Toyota's carbon neutrality statement, and in particular its pledge on policy engagement, sends a powerful message to both corporate Japan and the global automotive sector.
"Since it is difficult for Toyota to prepare such a wide range of choices by itself, it is jointly developing the series with partners who boast expertise in various fields," the company added. "By coordinating with policies that encourage the use of renewable energies, Toyota hopes to expand the range of choice for customers, and contribute to the further reduction of CO2 emissions."
The Toyota bZ4X is set to launch in Japan and China with a view to worldwide sales of the model starting by the middle of 2022.
The new plans were given a cautious welcome by InfluenceMap, the campaign group that monitors corporate lobbying on climate policy and has in the past been highly critical of Toyota's well-documented opposition to more ambitious decarbonization policies in numerous jurisdictions around the world.
The group highlighted how Toyota's short announcement last week included a pledge to "review public policy engagement activities through our company and industry associations to confirm they are consistent with the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement, and disclose our assessment and actions by the end of this year." InfluenceMap said that if the pledge is implemented in full, it would go a long way to reforming a sector that has been a key oppositional force to government efforts to implement Paris-aligned vehicle policy globally.
"Toyota's carbon neutrality statement, and in particular its pledge on policy engagement, sends a powerful message to both corporate Japan and the global automotive sector," said Dylan Tanner, executive director at InfluenceMap. "Clearly the proof will be in the details which InfluenceMap looks forward to assessing when available as part of our remit looking at corporate climate policy engagement. Ultimately, real reform of climate-related policy positions and engagement by Toyota and its powerful industry associations will be needed to enable governments to act on climate. This is something that can and should begin immediately and does not need to wait for the company's review."