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Toyota's best-selling vehicle, the RAV4, is available as a plug-in hybrid, which goes 42 miles on battery alone. Photo: Toyota

While competitors like GM and Volkswagen are going all-electric, Toyota argues that a mix of hybrids, plug-in hybrids and EVs is better for the environment.

Why it matters: Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) aren't for everyone, and a new analysis shows that even people who own BEVs don't drive them as far as the average gasoline-powered car.

  • That challenges assumptions about both their environmental impact and total cost of ownership.

Between the lines: Toyota's top scientist, Gill Pratt, shared the automaker's own analysis of BEVs vs. plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) at a recent media briefing.

  • BEVs and PHEVs have similar environmental benefits when you include pollutants created by the production of electricity to charge the batteries.
  • Cars with bigger batteries for maximum range only make sense for people whose electric power comes mostly from renewable sources, Pratt said.
  • "If you purchase a [battery-electric] that has substantially more range than average, you end up carrying around a lot of extra battery mass," he said.
  • "You may as well have bricks in the trunk that you're carrying around — and they're actually very expensive bricks, because not only do they cost a lot, but they create greenhouse gases themselves" when they are manufactured.

Yes, but: One could argue that Toyota is trying to justify the fact that it lags major competitors on BEVs.

  • But the Japanese carmaker has always been deliberate about everything it does, and its slow path toward EVs is no exception.

The bottom line: Toyota is not ignoring the EV trend, says Bob Carter, executive vice president of sales for Toyota Motor North America.

  • It plans to add two BEVs and a PHEV to its lineup this year.
  • But expect a more diversified set of powertrain choices, unlike competitors that are going 100% electric, he said.
  • "The goal is how can we, as an industry, reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases the quickest," Carter said. "One solution may not be the best solution. I want to be the Macy's department store of powertrains."

Go deeper

Feb 19, 2021 - Economy & Business

The Prius of airplanes

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Hybrid-electric aircraft will soon kick off a new era of cleaner air travel, just as the pioneering Toyota Prius heralded the start of the electric car movement 20 years ago.

Why it matters: Replacing small regional planes that run on fossil fuels with hybrid or electric aircraft would help reduce climate-damaging CO2 emissions. It could also make air travel easier and cheaper for people living in smaller cities not served by major airlines.

27 mins ago - World

Biden huddles with European allies on Ukraine ahead of Putin call

Putin in the Kremlin. Photo: Grigory Sysoyev/Sputnik via Getty

President Biden will seek to convince Russia's Vladimir Putin in a phone call Tuesday that the price of invading Ukraine would be steeper than anything he's faced in the past.

Driving the news: Biden held a call on Ukraine this evening with the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and the U.K., while Secretary of State Tony Blinken called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to offer America's "unwavering support."

Justice Department closes Emmett Till murder probe

A faded photograph is attached to the headstone that marks the gravesite of Emmett Till in Burr Oak Cemetery in Chicago. Photo: Scott Olson via Getty Images

The family of Emmett Till announced Monday that the Department of Justice has formally closed its second investigation into the 1955 murder of Emmett Till.

Why it matters: The DOJ reopened the probe in 2018 after the white woman at the center of the case reportedly recanted her allegation that Till, a Black 14-year-old, sexually harassed her prior to his murder.