Akio Toyoda Fields Questions on Carbon Neutrality from U.S. Reporters

2022.11.22

Q3: Why aren’t others going for hydrogen engines?

Commercialization is still a way off. In Japan, we have been racing with hydrogen-powered engines since May 2021.

Photograph by Noriaki Mitsuhashi / N-RAK PHOTO AGENCY

Over the course of the nine races since then, the car has greatly evolved. In terms of climbing the mountain toward market-ready hydrogen engines, we are still less than halfway to the summit.

So why are we doing this now, without even knowing if it is feasible? I think that’s part of pursuing new, innovative technology. If we create the opportunities and projects, and take an agile approach, others will come on board.

Speaking in terms of producing, transporting, and using energy, initially Toyota stood alone on the use side, using green hydrogen from a new pilot plant in Fukushima Prefecture.

Opened in March 2020, the Fukushima Hydrogen Energy Research Field (FH2R) produces the hydrogen used in races.

Since then, the number of partners on the energy production side has grown, allowing us to use hydrogen made with geothermal energy, Australian lignite, and solar power from outside Fukushima.

Obayashi Corporation built Japan's first geothermal-powered hydrogen production plant.

Similarly on the use front, four Japanese motorcycle manufacturers have also announced they will be working on hydrogen engine development.

In the past, hydrogen was commonly associated with dangerous explosions. When I recently visited Belgium to drive a WRC demo car, we had to do a great deal of explaining about infrastructure safety measures.

But when they found out that the president himself would be driving, the organizers’ tone changed to “go ahead and try it.”

Whether it’s hydrogen or any other new option, there are always risks and dangers at first. And when it comes to the hydrogen engine’s development, I assure you that Toyota’s accounting department has been scrutinizing the feasibility even more than you guys!

However, my actions can change the way others act. In particular, I believe that my risk-taking is one of the reasons why more and more people are joining the cause.

While pursuing hydrogen-powered engines may not seem rational right now, the truth is that we also have considerable support from fellow car-lovers.

As long as there are such like-minded car-lovers in the world, I feel that I still have a role to play, so I’d like to continue our endeavor for the time being.

Q4: Is Toyota skeptical of BEVs?

First, let me correctly explain Toyota’s position. I would like you to think of Toyota as a department store offering every available powertrain.

People are growing more diverse. There are all kinds of people, from those who already own and use BEVs to others who live in places with no access to charging facilities.

While we may not have explained things adequately, I think our products speak best for themselves.

We’d love our customers and stakeholders to take a look at Toyota’s product lineup and drive our cars, then hear their thoughts. I think it’s important for us to put more effort into such approaches.

In saying all this, I am by no means claiming that Toyota’s approach is the only one others should follow. My hope is simply to gain empathy from customers and the market, who will continue to see us as a vital company, both today and in the future.

At Toyota, we want to avoid a situation where our diverse customers are at odds with each other due to their individual preferences.

Variety is what makes a department store. I think steering customers toward a single product would diminish the store’s value.

We are serious about pursuing all options, as I hope our products will continue to demonstrate.

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