Japan's Toyota shows 'an engine born' with green fuel, despite the global push for battery-electric cars

TOKYO — TOKYO (AP) — “An engine reborn.”

For example, Japanese car manufacturer Toyota introduced plans to put a futuristic twist on the traditional combustion engine.

During a three-hour presentation in a hall in Tokyo, the automaker giant announced on Tuesday that it would offer sleek compact engines that would also run on so-called green fuels such as hydrogen and bioethanol, or be combined with emission-free electric motors in hybrids.

This is because many competitors in the automotive industry are pushing for fully electric vehicles. China is ramping up its push for battery-electric vehicles, and its own BYD threatens to surpass Tesla in that effort.

Toyota's CEO Koji Sato said the “engine is optimized for the electrification era” in hopes of helping the world achieve “carbon neutrality.”

Toyota already has a well-known hybrid car – the Prius – with a gas engine and an electric motor. It switches between the two to deliver a cleaner ride.

In future hybrids, the electric motor will become the main motive power, and the new engine will be designed to play a smaller role and help with that, Toyota said.

Domestic allies Subaru Corp. and Mazda Motor Corp., both of which are developing eco-friendly engines designed to meet the inevitably coming stricter emissions standards, joined Toyota's presentation, which was billed as a “multi-pathway workshop.”

“Every company wants to win, but we can be faster if we work together,” said Sato.

But details about when the engines went on sale were not disclosed.

The legacy of the car engine was felt everywhere.

Mazda said its prized rotary engine, introduced more than 50 years ago, was being adapted for electric vehicles.

Subaru, meanwhile, showed off its signature smaller, horizontally opposed engine. While Chief Technology Officer Tetsuro Fujinuki confirmed that the company was working on an awesome “Subaru-like” electric vehicle, he said the company had no plans to ditch the engine altogether.

Toyota is also working on stylish BEVs.

The executives said on Tuesday that energy supply conditions varied globally, adding that products had to meet different customer needs and that the investments required for mass production of BEVS were enormous.

Toyota officials also repeatedly noted that there are 5.5 million jobs at stake today in Japan's overall auto manufacturing supply chain, so a sudden shift to electric cars was not economically possible or socially responsible.

Takahiro Fujimoto, professor of business administration at Waseda University, believes electric vehicles are an important solution to reduce emissions. But they still have weaknesses, such as the large amounts of emissions produced when making lithium-ion batteries, a key component.

In Japan, for example, commuters use the train, so that may be a better environmental choice for transportation, Fujimoto said.

“At the very least, I believe that the proliferation of and innovations in BEVs are absolutely necessary. But that argument is not logically the same as saying we only need BEVs,” he said.

Uncertainties remain, relating to research and development, as well as social, political and market conditions, Fujimoto said.

“The carbon neutrality the world is aiming for will likely not be achievable in the coming decades. It will be a long marathon race,” he said.

___

Yuri Kageyama is on X: https://twitter.com/yurikageyama

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