Other automakers have pulled back on hybrid models to concentrate fully on full-electric vehicles. That’s a choice, but it’s not the only one. Toyota’s in-the-meantime approach seeks steady and substantial carbon dioxide reductions every year until the recharging infrastructure and costs of BEVs make them an attractive, affordable choice for all consumers everywhere.
Consider this: The average U.S. commute is 16 miles each way. If you use your vehicle mostly to commute, a plug-in hybrid would be powered by electricity most of the time. If you purchase a typically more expensive full-electric vehicle with 200 or 300 miles in range, and you don’t drive that much on a regular basis, you end up using up the energy of the costly battery system by carrying the dead weight of the extra battery mass.
Not only do the unused battery cells cost a lot, but their manufacturing process creates greenhouse gases. Raw materials need to be extracted for batteries, and some of the elements, such as lithium and cobalt, are in limited supply. And don’t forget, there needs to be a dramatic shift in manufacturing if hundreds of millions of BEVs are going to be sold.
Given the current infrastructure, battery-electrics work best today for people who own suburban houses with garages, so weather-protected chargers can be installed. That way, these vehicle owners can do most of their charging at home. However, installing a faster charging option can cost between $1,000 and $2,500, on top of the cost of the car. Charging electric vehicles is still inconvenient for many, including people who live in cities and apartment buildings, or places where they need to park on the street, or in rural areas.
Even the best BEVs on the road today with driving ranges of 200 miles or more require compromises from consumers who go on road trips. Drivers must find places to charge every few hours. Chargers are not nearly as plentiful as gas stations, so careful planning is needed. Rather than filling the tank in five minutes or less, an electric vehicle can take 30 to 45 minutes to add enough range to proceed — assuming there’s no line of battery-electrics waiting to charge. Also, charging times and costs can vary widely depending on factors outside a vehicle owner’s control —such as the time of day, other loads on the local electrical grid and whether the charger next to you is being used. Given these variables, consumers can be shocked at the bills from on-the-road chargers, which can far exceed what they’re used to paying to fill up with gasoline.
These are not insurmountable challenges, and Toyota shouldn’t be seen as anti-BEVs. Instead, these are the problems we must solve for all consumers as we bridge an entire national transportation system to the next type of propulsion. As an industry, we need to work together with the government to address concerns that are holding consumers back from buying EVs.
Toyota and the industry will be part of the solution by providing these choices. We encourage policymakers to write regulations and laws that encourage consumers to consider all kinds of environmentally friendly, carbon-reducing vehicles that best meet their needs so we can move even faster toward a carbon-neutral society for all.