Toyota is about to roll out the first of 15 pure-electric cars to supplement its hybrid range. But the world’s biggest automaker has warned not every vehicle on the planet can switch to pure electric power. 
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The world’s biggest car maker, Toyota, has warned against the push to switch every car on the planet to electric power – because it would simply shift the problem from tailpipes to power stations.

A day after Toyota unveiled its first pure-electric car – the BZ4X, a Toyota RAV4-sized SUV due in overseas showrooms in 2022 and in Australia soon after – the company has warned some sections of the community need to be careful what they wish for when chasing a pure-electric dream.

“Despite this week’s focus on (pure-electric cars), we cannot achieve carbon neutrality simply by turning all our cars into (pure-electric vehicles),” said Sean Hanley, the sales and marketing boss of Toyota Australia.

The high-ranking Toyota Australia executive said: “One-quarter of the world’s CO2 emissions today come from electricity generation. Even by 2040, more than half the world’s electricity is expected to be generated by fossil fuels.”

“Therefore,” said the Toyota executive, “if all cars were to become (pure-electric vehicles), the demand for electricity would increase and carbon neutrality could be a long way off.

Toyota has echoed earlier calls from other sections of the car industry to adopt a “life cycle assessment”, from mining the precious metals required to make batteries, the car assembly process, shipping, road freight, and showrooms.

“This requires us to reduce CO2 to zero across production, distribution, use, recycling and disposal of vehicles,” said Mr Hanley. “What we need is more of a big-picture perspective.”

Toyota is the world’s biggest car maker – and sells more hybrids than any other brand – but says customers and governments need to understand there will be a choice of future vehicle technologies.

“We simply cannot achieve carbon neutrality by only producing electric vehicles,” said Mr Hanley, especially as “more than half the electricity generated by 2040 will still be powered by fossil fuels.”

Toyota Australia spokesperson Emily Haseloff said a dramatic increase in the sales of electric cars could have “the opposite effect” on overall emissions “unless everyone has solar panels on their house”.

“In the end, the main driver of electrification (of vehicles) will be … the consumer,” said Mr Hanley, adding that Australians have a “broad use” of vehicles and a vast range of demands, from rural and city use to mining and off-road driving.

“Our vehicles must be fit for purpose. There’s no point bringing a car to market if it can’t do what consumers want,” he said. “That doesn’t mean a vehicle needs to be less capable, (but) it needs to be designed and engineered to do what Australians ask of it.”

Toyota says over the next decade it will expand its choice of technology – beyond petrol and diesel vehicles – by introducing more hybrid, plug-in hybrid, pure-electric, and hydrogen models.