Toyota Wants to Cut Almost All GHG Emissions from Vehicles by Mid-Century

The automaker is looking toward hydrogen fuel cells and hybrids, not electric, as the future of low-carbon driving.

by / October 14, 2015
The Toyota Mirai, which runs on hydrogen fuel cells, will begin selling in California on Oct. 21. Toyota

Toyota is divorcing gasoline.

Like all divorces, it will take time — decades, actually. As of Wednesday, the car company’s official position is that by 2050 it wants to reduce its cars’ average greenhouse gas emissions to 90 percent below 2010 levels.

While other automakers — Tesla Motors, Nissan and Chevrolet, for instance — are building up their offerings of all-electric vehicles, Toyota is betting largely on hybrids and hydrogen fuel cells. On Wednesday, the company announced that it will begin selling its hydrogen-powered Mirai model in California on Oct. 21.

According to Reuters, Toyota wants to sell 30,000 Mirai cars per year by 2020.

The fuel-cell technology used in the Mirai involves pulling oxygen out of the air and mixing it with hydrogen. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, fuel cells deliver no greenhouse gas or polluting chemicals into the air — though the process of producing hydrogen does produce some greenhouse gases.

But in its Wednesday press release, Toyota said that even those emissions might be driven down in the future. “Hydrogen fuel has the potential to be produced from renewable energy sources like solar, wind and biogas,” the statement reads. “The vehicle’s only tailpipe emission is water.”

The company is planning to use more wind and hydrogen power at its manufacturing plants by 2020, according to the Associated Press.

Just before the announcements on the hydrogen fuel-cell front, Toyota also said that the latest updates to its Prius line will improve fuel efficiency in those cars. The company has, according to a Tuesday statement, made improvements to the battery, reduced heat loss and cut down the weight of the cars. Altogether it adds up to an increase in fuel economy of about 10 percent.

Reducing the amount of greenhouse gases spewed into the atmosphere through the ubiquitous act of driving has been a major concern among worldwide policy leaders looking to sign a universal climate pact in December at the 21st Conference of Parties summit in Paris. In a joint announcement last month, U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping promised to increase fuel efficiency standards for each country’s respective trucking industry.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which is also pushing for states to derive more electricity from non-fossil fuel sources as part of the country’s broader climate efforts, estimates that 27 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation.

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