Electric Vehicle Boom: Toyota CEO talks about the elephant in the room

Akio Toyoda of Toyota


Electric charging points are mushrooming in the Western world and so is the visibility of electric vehicles on our roads with an ever increasing frequency.

Of course, electric cars do not pollute the environment with carbon emissions; there is no sound pollution either, as their presence on roads is hardly audible.

The question that comes to my mind – and of course, to many minds on the same wavelength too - however, is about the way these charging points get electricity when the EV market booms.

Then all of a sudden, I heard a mild outburst from someone at the top of the motor industry by complete coincidence that fully resonated with my curiosity – and that of many.

The well-admired American philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson, in one of his famous essays, Self-Reliance, shed light on the mysterious psychic phenomenon like this about 200 year ago:

“To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all … That is genius,” he writes. “Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense; for the inmost in due time becomes the outmost.”

The curiosity over the source of energy is not just my private thought; it is something felt by millions of people who also love cleaner energy in a sustainable manner. In due course, based on Emerson’s universal assertion, I thought this would take a global dimension in few years.

In fact, it happened much more quickly than I thought it would!

This is what Akio Toyoda, the CEO of Japanese car giant, Toyota and the grandson of the founder of the company said at a crucial news conference on Thursday:

“Japan would run out of electricity in the summer if all cars were running on electric power. The infrastructure needed to support a 100 percent EV fleet would cost Japan between 14 trillion and 37 trillion yen ($135 billion to $358 billion), he estimated. And most of the country’s electricity is generated by burning coal and natural gas, anyway, so it’s not necessarily helping the environment,” said he on Thursday at a news conference.

In short, he does not seem to be prepared to embrace the EV hype yet, while knowing the ground realities; he simply took a swipe at politicians for emotionalising the issue.

Mr Toyoda called a spade a spade without mincing his words.

Does electricity come from the renewables or non-renewables to power the EVs?

Here in the United Kingdom, more than 20% of electricity is generated from wind energy and 54% of the same from renewable sources; we have crossed the half-way mark, which seemed an impossible feat, a decade ago.

In order to achieve this goal, the United Kingdom is blessed with its geography: it’s a set of isles with plenty of consistent wind patterns, especially in the North; the island-location makes the UK the best place for generating electricity from the wind.

An extensive network of off-shore wind farms has been making a significant contribution to national electricity needs for years.

On-shore wind farms, however, have to overcome considerable resistance from the locals, who see them as an eyesore despite their obvious advantages. In addition, the noise and being prone to damages, especially in stormy weathers, make them a bit jittery about their installation in rural areas.

Unfortunately, most countries in Europe are not in this enviable position; that means, they still have to rely on non-renewables to power their electric grids.  The reality is it will take years, if not decades, to turn our back on oil and gas the – the main source of renewable energy.

The governments have to think about millions of people employed in the sector and myriad of dependents on the same.

Even in California, where the evolution of EV vehicles sprang up, buoyed by the innovative technological advances that the region offers, renewable energy just accounted for 32% electricity in 2018.

Against this backdrop, the issue of generation of electricity has become the elephant in the room in the days of the EV boom: even experts avoid highlighting the vital fact that is an integral part of the EV tale; the unpopular fact that more than 50% of electricity needs of most countries still comes from fossil fuel.

In short, fossil fuels are here to stay for at least few decades.

The industry has a responsibility too as there is a serious risk for its survival in the current form: not to let researching on possibilities of making cleaner fuels be eclipsed by relentless pursuit of profits and not mimicking ostrich when the issue comes up at regular intervals.






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