Why Electric Vehicles Won’t Replace Hybrid Cars Anytime Soon
Several major automakers, including GM and Volvo, have announced plans to produce only electric cars by 2035 or earlier, in anticipation of the transition. But not all automakers are on the same page.
Notably, Toyota, the world’s largest automaker, has pointed out that it plans to offer a range of options, including hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, instead of focusing exclusively on electric vehicles. A Toyota spokesperson told MIT Technology Review that the company is focused on how to cut carbon emissions fastest, rather than how many vehicles of a certain type it can sell.
The company continued to market new hybrid vehicles, including plug-in hybrids capable of traveling short distances on electricity using a small battery. In November, Toyota announced the 2023 edition of its Prius Prime, a plug-in hybrid.
Some environmental groups have criticized the company’s slow approach to electric vehicles. To get to zero emissions, they argue, we will need all-electric vehicles, and the sooner the better.
But in recent interviews, Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda has cast doubt on how quickly the auto industry can make a U-turn on fossil fuels, calling the US goal of making electric vehicles reach half of new car sales by 2030 a “tough demand”. While Toyota expects electric vehicle sales to reach 3.5 million by 2030 (or 35% of its current annual sales), the company also sees hybrids as an affordable option that customers will want, and which can play a role. key role in reducing emissions.
The story of two hybrids
Two different categories of vehicles are called hybrids. Conventional hybrid electric vehicles have a small battery that assists the gasoline engine by recovering energy while driving, such as energy that would otherwise be lost during braking. They can’t go more than a few miles on battery power, and slow at that. On the contrary, the battery helps increase gas mileage and can provide additional torque. The original Toyota Prius models are among the best known traditional hybrid vehicles.
Plug-in hybrid vehicles, on the other hand, have a battery about 10 times larger than that of a traditional hybrid, and this battery can be plugged in and charged using electricity. Plug-in hybrids can typically go 25 to 50 miles on electricity, switching to their gasoline engine for longer distances. The Prius Prime, launched in 2012, is a plug-in hybrid.
Conventional hybrids are much more common in the United States than all-electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles, although sales of electric vehicles have grown rapidly in recent years.