Australia’s top-selling carmaker has fired an early shot in the debate over a vehicle pollution limit, with a Toyota executive arguing electric vehicles are not ready to replace all cars and a push to do so could leave thousands of motorists behind.
The comments, from the automaker’s sales boss Sean Hanley, come less than two weeks after the federal government launched its national electric vehicle strategy and a public consultation into a fuel efficiency standard.
But environment and electric vehicle groups say the manufacturer’s comments do not reflect the state of vehicle technology and are based on Toyota’s delay in launching electric models.
Toyota, which dominates the Australian auto market, sold more than 230,000 vehicles in the country during 2022 – more than twice its nearest rival.
Hanley said the brand strongly supported the government’s commitment to a fuel-efficiency standard that would cap vehicle pollution and encourage the import of more low-emission cars.
But he said the view that vehicle pollution should be cut by EVs alone was “simplistic” and would leave some motorists without like-for-like replacements.
“It is too early,” Hanley said. “What battery electric vehicle do we have right now on sale in Australia that can tow 2.5 tonnes for 600km? We don’t. It doesn’t exist.
“If we just move to only zero-emission vehicles, what are you going to tell the hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Australians who tow caravans, who use their cars for work, who need their cars on the land, who need their cars in the mine, who need more than a 200 or 300km range?”
Despite his comments, Hanley said Toyota was “not against battery electric vehicle technology” and would launch its own model in Australia before the end of the year.
But he said hybrid vehicles were a practical technology for now and Toyota would lobby for a standard with a generous time-frame that cut pollution without cutting vehicle choices.
“We’ve spoken to the government and I think we have represented the silent voices of hundreds of thousands of Australians consumers who use their cars for leisure, towing, and lots of other activities,” he said.
“I know some lobby groups have alleged we’ve tried to stop, prevent, stall electrification but that’s not true. We’ve simply represented the market truth and the market reality.”
But the Electric Vehicle Council’s chief executive, Behyad Jafari, said EV technology had already been proven in many other countries and was becoming increasingly popular in Australia, with growing sales and sell-outs despite limited supply.
“When we hear those arguments, what we need to pay close attention to is the economic interest of the car company,” Jafari said.
“Some businesses haven’t spent time developing electric vehicles and they don’t have a firm enough grasp on the issues.”
Greenpeace campaigner Lindsay Soutar said Australians would not put up with arguments for weaker vehicle pollution standards or delayed action.
“Toyota has stalled on pure electric cars, opting to promote hybrid and fuel-cell technologies that will lock customers into paying for fossil fuels for decades to come,” she said.
“Pushing for petrol cars in 2023, in the middle of a climate and cost-of-living crisis, is laughable and Australians won’t be convinced.”