Toyota Unveils ‘An Engine Reborn’ with Green Fuel Amid Global Shift to Electric Cars

Koji Sato, chief executive of Toyota Motor Corp., speaks during a news conference in Tokyo

Japanese automaker Toyota has unveiled plans to revolutionize the traditional internal combustion engine by integrating green fuels and hybrid technology, amidst a global push towards battery electric vehicles (BEVs). During a three-hour presentation in Tokyo, Toyota showcased its vision of lean, compact engines that run on hydrogen and bioethanol, or are paired with zero-emissions electric motors in hybrids.

Despite the automotive industry’s strong push for fully electric vehicles, with China and its BYD brand leading the charge, Toyota’s Chief Executive Koji Sato emphasized the importance of optimizing engines for the electrification era to achieve carbon neutrality. Toyota, renowned for its hybrid Prius, plans for future hybrids to rely primarily on electric motors, with the new engine playing a supporting role.

Joining Toyota at the “multi-pathway workshop” were domestic allies Subaru Corp. and Mazda Motor Corp., both developing eco-friendly engines to meet stringent upcoming emissions standards. “Each company wants to win, but we can be faster if we work together,” Sato stated.

While details on the market release of these new engines remain undisclosed, the legacy of the car engine was evident. Mazda highlighted its iconic rotary engine, adapted for electric vehicles, while Subaru showcased its smaller horizontally opposed engine. Subaru’s Chief Technology Officer, Tetsuro Fujinuki, confirmed the company’s commitment to developing a “Subaru-like” electric vehicle without abandoning traditional engines.

Toyota executives underscored the varying global energy supply conditions and the need for diverse customer solutions, noting the significant investments required for mass-producing BEVs. They also highlighted the economic and social implications of a sudden shift to electric cars, with 5.5 million jobs in Japan’s vehicle production supply chain at stake.

Takahiro Fujimoto, a business professor at Waseda University, acknowledged the role of electric vehicles in reducing emissions but pointed out the substantial emissions generated during lithium-ion battery production. He suggested that, in countries like Japan where public transportation is prevalent, alternatives like trains might offer better ecological benefits.

Fujimoto concluded that while innovations in BEVs are essential, the path to carbon neutrality is a long-term endeavor fraught with uncertainties in research, development, and varying global conditions. “The carbon neutrality the world is aspiring toward isn’t likely attainable for decades to come. It’s going to be a long marathon race,” he remarked.

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