Toyota: No More Plug-In Electric Cars If Electricity Doesn't Get Cleaner (In Europe)?

Follow Antony

2013 Scion iQ EV hits the U.S.

2013 Scion iQ EV hits the U.S.

Enlarge Photo

European buyers waiting for an electric Toyota may have quite some time to wait--until the electric grid cleans up, basically.

That's the word from Toyota Europe, which says it wants to see cleaner electricity generation before it commits to electric vehicles.

According to Responding to Climate Change, the automaker sees "little sense" in electric vehicles if the grid powering them isn't largely supplied by renewable energy.

“We need to cooperate with the electricity providers so that what we present to the market, in its totality, is a clean solution, otherwise we’d prefer to step back,” said Toyota Europe’s head of government affairs and environmental issues, Didier Stevens.

Cars getting cleaner, energy... not so much

Toyota wants to see renewables targets in place to encourage greener generation.

Europe currently has no such targets--unlike the automobile market, which has been meeting tougher CO2 and emissions regulations every year.

There, huge gains have been made by automakers leading to cleaner-than-ever vehicles. As far as greenhouse gases are concerned, European vehicles have made much greater strides than power generation has.

That calls the viability of electric vehicles into question, when less expensive hybrid, gasoline and diesel vehicles differ little on a well-to-wheels basis.

Toyota's Stevens cites the lack of a decarbonization target in UK policy and German plans for more coal power as factors compounding the issue.

Energy mix

The former country's energy mix comprises around 40 percent gas and a third coal, with just over 3.5 percent renewables (source: DECC). Germany's overall mix is over a third oil, a tenth coal and 21 percent natural gas, with just 1.5 percent from hydro and wind (source: Wiki).

Germany buys in much of its energy however, and recent statistics show the country's own solar capacity is enough for 50 percent of peak summer demand.

Other recent numbers suggest that the overall European mix isn't too bad, however--the UK and Germany, two countries in Europe less reliant on renewables, produced less grams of CO2 per kilometer (equivalent) than did the U.S. in 2009. France and Spain were even better--among the cleanest in Europe, thanks to low-carbon nuclear power and renewables.

Electric cars: More sense in the U.S?

Studies in the U.S. have shown that even on the dirtiest grid (such as North Dakota's largely coal-based grid), electric cars are still generally cleaner until you approach 50 mpg Prius territory.

In California, where most electric cars are sold and renewable energy is in heavy use (on an individual basis as well as at grid level), you'd need a 100 mpg (or more) car before greenhouse gas outputs became lower.

wind farm

wind farm

Enlarge Photo
Based on the 2009 figures above, sourced from Shrink That Footprint, any car in the UK over 44 mpg would be cleaner than an electric car. Germany, a little more.

From this perspective, you can see Toyota's point--so many vehicles achieve those figures or more that the benefits of electrification could be called into question. Unless you live in France, of course, where the equivalent is more like 123 mpg--a figure no non-plugin car achieves.

Imperfect math

Taking a more critical gaze at the figures, it's worth noting in electric cars' favor that official European fuel economy figures are often highly optimistic, due to testing procedures that do very little to replicate real-world use.

So in the real world, an electric car is proportionally cleaner than a great many more regular vehicles. And that's on CO2 alone--there's still no competition when it comes to tailpipe emissions.

But until such testing represents real-world use--or Europe adopts greater use of renewables--the giant that is Toyota is unlikely to delve too deeply into battery electric vehicles.

[Hat tip: Brian Henderson]


Follow GreenCarReports on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+

Follow Us

Comments (25)
  1. Why does this article takes Toyota's side on this matter?

    Toyota is way behind in EV development and is mudding the waters to cover their failures.

    The article above uses very outdated (over 4 years old) info on electricity production. For something newer see
    which shows the aggressive growth of renewables in Germany, which proves the tone of this article wrong.

    Europe is aggressively trying to clean up the grid and EVs fit in nicely with that approach. There is no need to delay EVs until the grid cleans up, because an EV sold today will be operating on an increasingly clean grid.

  2. These are "self serving statements" on Toyota's behalf which are only intended to shift the future to their existing hybrid technology which can never be truly green.

  3. "Why does this article takes Toyota's side on this matter?"

    I wouldn't say it does, John. That's *deliberately* why I included the final few paragraphs noting that real-world emissions from regular vehicles are higher than official figures often make them seem, and also that there's more to emissions than CO2.

    I *also* noted in the "energy mix" section that fairly recent data suggests European energy is little worse (if not better) than the U.S. anyway, and we already know that EVs are cleaner to run virtually anywhere in the U.S.

    In fact, I'm curious as to how you've interpreted the entire article in the way you have.

  4. I'm not sure that whatever you had in your mind made it to the page.
    If you are skeptical of Toyota's claims, I think it is appropriate to make that clear close to the beginning of the article. The article goes 10 paragraphs in without and hint of skepticism.

    When you do get to some criticism, you use outdated renewable energy figures for Germany that underestimate renewable, and then stray back to supporting Toyota's position by stating that in the UK any car with better than 44mpg is better than electric.

    Perhaps this is just a failed attempt at journalistic objectivity. But if you are profoundly critical of Toyota's claims, that didn't come across in the article.

  5. Well, Nikki's tone is more like it.

  6. Guess this is political correct way of saying: plug-in sales in Europe are pretty anaemic so we won't bother until there is real money to be made.

  7. Funny at the same time Honda says we will not make trucks that are stupid big, Toyota is trying to outdo the largest GM and Ford heavy duty trucks.

    Toyota green decisions, stupid big trucks...exuberant thumbs up, the money is there why not? Emission reducing EV's thumbs down...because they are not really green? LOL, righty-O.

  8. Hey, why do i in Scandinavia have to suffer because of a dirty german grid?
    In sweden we have mostly hydro and nuclear..

  9. Not everyone will suffer. Some will just die peacefully, and very early. Without their heirs and assigns ever knowing the reason why.

  10. When driving an electric car it emits nothing so that solves one problem, so instead of fixing this one problem Toyota would rather wait and let it all continue. It's got to be one of the stupidest statements of 2013, Toyota is going to wait for a separate industry to go through a revolution before they'll join the revolution their own industry is going through. The truth is, this is just another excuse from an automotive brand with cold feet, they never cared about renewable energy before and they still don't.

  11. 'Toyota wants to see renewables targets in place to encourage greener generation. Europe currently has no such targets...'

    In 2009 the European Union enacted binding renewable energy and green house gas emissions targets.

    They set an objetive of having 20% of energy consumption coming from renewable sources. Equally, 10% of the energy used in the transport sector should come from renewable sources.

    On the other hand, regarding Toyota, it is really embarrasing to see how this company is looking for yet another excuse not to committ to EVs. They should learn from Tesla which as you know, it is already developing an extensive network of solar-powered free-for-life charging points. Shame on Toyota.

  12. I'm all for making the grid cleaner. But Toyota's argument is totally a red herring. EV's are not profitable for them. The main reason is because batteries are expensive. When the cost for batteries is below $100/kWhr, they'll change their tune.

  13. The main reason is that Toyota needs to do really large numbers to move the needle on profits. Looking at Tesla's supercharger model, the whole idea collapses under the strain of the infrastructure needed at the scale which shows a reasonable success for Toyota.

    Instead of moving toward a financially sustainable solution, Toyota concludes it impossible at any reasonable level of risk. Another reason why incumbents with all their superior resources, are so often crushed by the advent of new technology.

    A small startup needs this kind of ingenuity to work if it is to succeed amongst giants. Corporations the size of Toyota are inclined to shun such risks at all cost.

  14. Wow! That sounds like pure corporate B.S. If they are so concerned about cleaning-up the air, they should stop producing those nasty ICE cars. How about it Toyota!

  15. This is an interesting assertion from Toyota. This data may be a little dated (2010), but I'd invite anyone interested to experiment with the data from a Daimler Well-2-Wheels tool which derives the Co2 emissions per mile (or km) and efficiency.
    I just reran this tool, with the 2010 Euro grid mix, electric vehicles were still 2x lower emitting of Co2 than a diesel hybrid vehicle.

  16. This is disgusting. First the token plug-in performance of the Prius, then the ridiculous MSRP of the electric RAV4, and now this. The most insulting aspect is that Toyota really thinks customers are dumb enough to believe this excuse for not building a competitive electric vehicle. How did a corporate culture like this ever come up with a revolutionary car like the Prius?

  17. "How did a corporate culture like this ever come up with a revolutionary car like the Prius?"


    Detroit in the 1980's took the government's money for advanced technology vehicles and produced nothing - except for fear in Aichi Prefecture.

  18. It takes a lot of electricity to make gasoline and diesel. It also takes a lot of natural gas; and it takes a lot of electricity to get natural gas. It takes a lot of water to get oil and natural gas - and it takes a lot of electricity to get water.

    Gasoline only comes from one thing, and most of it is in other countries.

    Electricity can come form many things, and many of them are available all over the earth. Over time, electricity will get cleaner and cleaner - while oil will get dirtier and dirtier. Electricity will be available for as long as the earth and sun last - about 5 billion years.

    Oil will not last very long. Wake up Toyota.


  19. Toyota is clearly sandbagging the EV issue. It is heavily invested into hybrid technology and it is planning to milk that technology until it is all dried up. It planned to leverage that platform cost into every model lineup. Toyota's true "green" color is nothing more than the color of money.

    If "green" was the true motivation, it would NEVER have sold Sequoia, Tundra, Land Cruiser, FJ Cruiser and all the Lexus version of that gas guzzlers.

    Iceland has one of the greenst power generation and how many EVs do Toyota offer there?

    Northern Europe are mostly powered by hydro plants and how many EV do Toyota offer there?

    It is NOTHING more than a lie that shows Toyota's true color.

  20. We won't sell you plug-in vehicles because your electric grid is dirty.

    This is the most lame excuse I've heard in a while to excuse not making what consumers are asking for. What if the prospective purchaser has a large PV system installed on their home and intend to power their plug-in vehicle that way. Would Toyota add a plug then? If not why not?

    Toyota are committed to Hydrogen Vehicles, and will put down electrics every step of the way. Odd since the Prius Hybrid is in fact part electric vehicle running on dirty gasoline.

    How about stop selling the Prius until Europe cleans up its dirty Petrol/Diesel?

  21. Well, Toyota here's a rewarding action for your ignorant attitude. I've just ordered a Renault Zoe. The Toyota I'm driving till delivery of my Zoe will have an after-live (rather short) by my granddaughter.

  22. Who is Toyota to judge? Whats about the energy mix in Japan for the production of Prius compared with the countries in Europe

    Best Greetings from Sweden 50 % hydro 50% nuclear /Mats

  23. "Germany's overall mix is over a third oil, a tenth coal and 21 percent natural gas, with just 1.5 percent from hydro and wind "

    Oh boy oh boy oh boy, methinks someone didn't understand the numbers he was looking at.

    Energy is not the same as electricity Anthony. That wiki page is about total energy including oil used for transportation and natural gas uses for heating buildings.

    In reality, the number is >20%, not 1.5%.

    Another critical observation that Anthony might have mentioned to rebut this obvious bogus argument from Toyota is that many people that buy an ev, also put solar panels on their roofs to offset the extra demand.

  24. Toyota face plant , Beyond funny, especially considering that a car like GMs Volt can go further on the energy used to steam crude oil out of the Canadian Oil Sands, than it can the gasoline end product.
    All you have to do is use that natural gas used to steam the crude out of the ground in Alberta to generate Electricity instead and even a Tesla Model S can beat a Prius!

    And that is not even counting refining costs!

  25. France is mostly nuclear. That number makes no sense.

Commenting is closed for old articles.

Get FREE Dealer Quotes

From dealers near you

Find Green Cars


© 2015 Green Car Reports. All Rights Reserved. Green Car Reports is published by High Gear Media. Send us feedback. Stock photography by izmo, Inc.