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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.

Mike Allen, author of AM
4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden adviser Cedric Richmond sees first-term progress on reparations

Illustration: "Axios on HBO"

White House senior adviser Cedric Richmond told "Axios on HBO" that it's "doable" for President Biden to make first-term progress on breaking down barriers for people of color, while Congress studies reparations for slavery.

Why it matters: Biden said on the campaign trail that he supports creation of a commission to study and develop proposals for reparations — direct payments for African-Americans.

Cyber CEO: Next war will hit regular Americans online

Any future real-world conflict between the United States and an adversary like China or Russia will have direct impacts on regular Americans because of the risk of cyber attack, Kevin Mandia, CEO of cybersecurity company FireEye, tells "Axios on HBO."

What they're saying: "The next conflict where the gloves come off in cyber, the American citizen will be dragged into it, whether they want to be or not. Period."