Toyota “shocks” the world with big BEV plans. Even Greenpeace is impressed, sort of

Picture Bertel Schmitt

Tesla shares trade at pornographic levels as the market buys into the story that the future belongs the battery-electric vehicles, and that Tesla is the only company that knows how to design, build, and sell them. Traditional automakers, the market knows for sure, will commit suicide by inhaling gasoline fumes. Since this afternoon – at the latest – this narrative needs a radical overhaul.

This afternoon, world’s largest automaker Toyota invited a throng of media to its Megaweb event place in Tokyo, and it “shocked” (Autocar) them with the  announcement that it will have 30 battery-electric models by 2030, that it plans to sell 3.5 million BEVs per year by that date, and that its premium-brand Lexus will be 100% battery-operated by 2030, at least in North America, Europe, and China. The company will put $70 billion behind the company’s electrification.

Picture Bertel Schmitt

Toyota-chief Akio Toyota made the announcement in front of prototypes of those 30 future BEV models. This in itself was a shocker, as the company usually refrains from commenting on any upcoming models whatsoever, let alone show them to the press 9 years before their launch. Today, we’ve seen small BEVs, BEV SUVs, BEV commercial vehicles, even son-of-LFA, a battery-operated low-sling supercar.

For some, that announcement may not have been shocking enough. We have been subjected to many hyperbolic BEV promises in the near past, notably from Elon Musk who promised 20 million Teslas per year by 2030, and Wall Street Journal’s Tokyo resident Sean McLain was visibly under the influence of said hyperbole when he asked:  “Why are you only targeting 35% of your current volume, why not go 100% or 50%, as many of your competitors have done?”

Akio Toyota answered by pointing out that the global car market and its energy situation are diverse. Toyota doesn’t want to “inconvenience” its customers by forcing them into cars that don’t fit into their lives, Toyoda said, and he will offer diverse solutions to that diverse market. He made clear that the goal is 100% carbon neutrality, and not necessarily 100% battery.  Even if hydrogen wasn’t mentioned much today, the company is still pursuing the technology. It also plans to burn hydrogen in internal combustion engine cars.

Greenpeace recently ranked Toyota at the bottom of the scale when it comes to decarbonization. Was today’s announcement shocking enough for Greenpeace to change its opinion? I happened to sit next to Daniel Read, Climate and Energy Campaigner of Greenpeace, his huge mop of red hair tied into a tight bun, and his face behind two masks for good measure. He called Lexus going 100% BEV “a step in the right direction,” but missed “a roadmap for the hydrogen vehicles,” and while the argument that different situations demand different solutions “generally is  true,”  he didn’t want to completely buy into it.

But back to the pornographic valuations.  Volkswagen recently predicted that half of its global vehicle sales will be battery-powered cars by 2030. Today, a usually more cautious Toyota committed  to a third of its global volume to run on batteries by the end of the decade. Both produce 10 million units per year, and together represent a quarter of the global automobile volume. Other global OEMs don’t sit still either.

The story of the electric future belonging to Tesla, while legacy OEMs are dragged under by their sunk costs, really needs to be retired.  Hours after today’s announcement, the Tesla share opened in New York at  $945, 23% down from its peak in November.  Maybe, the market got the message.

This site automatically detects and reports abuse