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Toyota goes full steam ahead towards Carbon Neutrality

Toyota goes full steam ahead towards Carbon Neutrality

Ardie Lopez

Toyota Motor Corporation president and CEO Akio Toyoda has revealed their intensified push on using Hydrogen as a fuel option

The president and CEO of Toyota Motor Corporation, Akio Toyoda, along with the president of Toyota Motor Thailand Co. Ltd., Noriaki Yamashita, led the celebration of Toyota’s 60th Anniversary in Thailand last December 14 amid hundreds of attendees at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center in Bangkok. In his speech, Toyoda profusely thanked the shareholders of Toyota Thailand and the Thai people in general, for the prosperous partnership and unprecedented growth of the brand through the years that significantly helped make Thailand the automobile production hub of Asia.

Toyota Motor Corporation President and CEO Akio Toyoda, and Toyota Motor Thailand, Ltd. President Noriaki Yamashita along with top executives of Thailand’s CP Group celebrate 60 years of a fruitful partnership and collaboration by committing full support to Toyota’s Carbon Neutrality initiative.
Donning his Rookie Racing suit, Toyota Motor Corp. President and CEO Akio Toyoda gets the rock star treatment upon his surprise visit at the media room.

Toyoda also took the opportunity to highlight Toyota’s massive thrust towards Carbon Neutrality. While globally, the majority of automobile brands’ efforts to reduce their carbon footprint are hinged heavily on electrification, Toyoda emphasized that carbon is the real enemy and not a particular powertrain, and that battery-powered electric vehicles are not the only way to achieve carbon neutrality. He also mentioned that he has received criticism in the past for not pursuing electrification 100%, and that somehow the automotive giant was not clear on its direction with regard to supporting it. Toyota believes that the goal of Carbon Neutrality can only be realistically achieved by utilizing multiple pathways towards it, and that aside from manufacturing cars with more fuel-efficient internal combustion engines, creating a full portfolio of carbon reducing vehicles that include hybrid electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, battery-powered electric vehicles, and fuel cell vehicles, will give customers a lot more options to choose from and therefore get to that goal faster. Toyota aims to achieve full carbon neutrality with their vehicle lineup by 2050 according to Toyoda, and to prove that they are dead serious in making good on their timeline, he also revealed their intensified push on using Hydrogen as a fuel option. Currently they have Hydrogen-powered GR-Yaris and GR-Corolla advanced concept cars, and in the video presentation during Akio Toyoda’s speech, the audience was wowed by the gung-ho Toyota president himself attacking a rally course at full tilt behind the wheel of a Hydrogen-powered GR-Yaris.

The author gets a special ride around a test track in a Hydrogen-powered Toyota Corolla Cross and bz4X BEV Concept, experiencing what Toyota is gunning for as the most sustainable alternative fuel source of the near-future.

Water you waiting for?

Hydrogen’s only by-product is water- and not to rain on anyone’s parade, full electrification isn’t that sustainable in many parts of the world, quips Toyoda. It will take years for developing countries to have proper and ample infrastructure systems to make it viable. The manufacture of Lithium-ion batteries, the prevailing type used in electric vehicles also isn’t the most sustainable and earth-friendly, and the development of battery technology doesn’t seem to be keeping pace with the myriad of nameplates and models of EVs the various auto brands are churning out almost on a regular basis. Neodymium is a rare earth material found in magnets, a major component in electric motors for EVs, and this too is a finite resource just like fossil fuel for petroleum products. Hydrogen as a fuel is expensive and quite complicated to process, and while it’ll also take years to make the process a lot more cost-efficient, the fact that it can be sourced out abundantly using solar or wind power, natural gas, or even biomass like chicken manure, cannot be overlooked.

Underlining Toyota’s multiple pathways towards carbon neutrality, Toyoda emphatically campaigned for a holistic approach to achieve it, including partnering up with its competitors in the industry which includes Daihatsu, Suzuki, Isuzu and Hino- Toyota’s co-members in the Commercial Japan Partnership Technologies Corporation, all working for the common goal. And to end his speech on a high note, Toyoda unveiled two major Toyota concept vehicles that would address two sides of the automotive spectrum, one that supports economic growth, and one that supports environmental friendliness: the Toyota Hilux Revo BEV concept, and the Toyota IMV 0 concept. Like a punctuation to Toyota’s statement on their support on BEV’s, the full EV Hilux came as a surprise for the nameplate as a utility vehicle has become iconic around the world. The IMV 0 (zero), though what powertrain it uses was not revealed, was described as a more universal modular sub-compact vehicle that isn’t only widely usable for multi-utility purposes for SME’s (like their current Lite Ace), but also quite a desirable one for the lifestyle and leisure aspect, with its design cues reminiscent of one of their hit nameplates, the late model FJ Cruiser.

Rocking alternative test drives

At the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand, Toyota mounted a Carbon Neutrality exhibit that featured their nameplates that are the front liners in this major initiative, the latest Prius, the bZ4X BEV, the Hydrogen GR-Yaris, the Hilux Revo BEV Concept, and even a cross-sectioned Hydrogen-powered Mirai. Vivid demonstrations and presentations of how Hydrogen power works and is sourced out were also made available for all the attendees to experience. Oh, and the IMV 0 Concept surfaced on the racetrack instead, as the pace car of the Idemitsu 1500 25-hour Super Endurance race that happened simultaneously with the event. The highlight for us media participants was of course the test drive proper, as we were given the opportunity to drive Toyota’s impressive BEVs, the Mirai and the bZ4X. On a controlled track, we had some short but valuable seat time behind the wheels of these nameplates, with some acceleration (0-100 km/h) and handling tests (slalom). There was a Hydrogen-powered Corolla Cross we weren’t allowed to drive but given shotgun rides in. The H2 Corolla Cross performed just like its peppy ICE counterpart, but it had a distinct throaty exhaust sound. All in all, it was great to finally get a feel of Toyota’s BEVs and compare them to what we’ve driven from other brands. Notable was being able to get a feel of the alternative future of the automobile with the H2 Corolla Cross.

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TMC President and CEO Akio Toyoda fist bumps a fan at the grid prior to the flag off of the 25-hour Thailand Super Endurance Race, where he himself did an hour of hot laps in a Hydrogen-powered GR Yaris race car.

Will the real Maverick please stand up?

It was also amazing to witness first hand and up close, the president and CEO of one of the largest corporations in the world giving some real talk, diving right into the action and having a blast while doing it. Sure, he’s got a great PR team, but one wouldn’t be able to take on an initiative this huge and get the message across as effectively without the solid resolve, the sincerity and well, the wisdom and out-of-the-box leadership style of Toyoda. Hitting zero or being totally carbon-neutral on their vehicle lineup by 2050 seems like a lofty goal even for the global automotive giant Toyota, but after finally laying out their multiple pathways approach with their incredibly hands-on president and CEO at the helm, it’s absolutely possible. We’re seriously looking forward to watching this hero to zero story to unfold.

MAIN PHOTO: The author (extreme left) with Toyota Motor Philippines top executives, at Toyota’s 60th Anniversary in Thailand , from left, TMP First Vice President for Vehicle Sales Operation Sherwin Chualim; Sunshine Cabrera of TMP Marketing Services;  TMP President Atsuhiro Okamoto; Kap Maceda Aguila of Business World and TMP Chairman Alfred Ty.