Toyota Australia boss says electric vehicles impractical for most Aussies- and ... trends now
A top Toyota executive says hybrid cars are a better fit for Australian drivers right now but Tesla and the industry are hitting back in a fiery debate.
Australia's most popular car brand has launched a stinging attack on electric vehicles, claiming they are not ready for our roads, not as green as they seem, and remain 'impractical for the vast majority of Australian motorists'.
But Australia's most popular electric car brand is hitting back, alongside industry groups, claiming the argument is a 'cynical' attack by a company 'too slow off the mark' and at risk of losing the future automotive race.
Australia's most popular car brand has launched a stinging attack on electric vehicle (pictured, the Tesla CyberTruck electric vehicle)
The organisations, including Tesla and the Electric Vehicle Council, say Toyota's allegations also have the potential to slow cuts to transport emissions and harm a promising local industry exporting in-demand battery minerals.
The argument is the latest, and potentially fiercest, in a series of debates about the suitability of electric cars but it comes after their sales in Australia have more than doubled and as future legislation promises to increase supply.
Toyota previewed new vehicles at the Japan Mobility Show and continues to back hybrid technology.
Toyota Australia sales vice-president Sean Hanley sparked the war of words with comments to journalists at the Japan Mobility Show.
The company used the event to show off future products, including its first electric car due to launch in Australia, the delayed bZ4X SUV.
Despite showing off an electric vehicle, Mr Hanley told journalists hybrid vehicles were 'a better fit' for Australian motorists and could have greater environmental benefits.
'(Battery electric vehicles) make sense right now in places like Norway where most energy is renewable and incomes are high but Australia is not Europe,' he said.
'In countries like Australia, our data suggests that hybrids can have a greater impact than full electrification in getting carbon off the road.'
He argued Toyota could make more hybrid vehicles with the same materials used to create one electric car, that EVs were 'powered, in many cases, by electricity generated from coal' and that they remained 'impractical' for drivers.
But Mr Hanley's comments prompted immediate rebukes from other parts of the automotive industry, including one of Toyota's newest and biggest rivals.
Toyota's first electric vehicle to go on sale in Australia is the bZ4X.
Tesla public policy vice-president Rohan Patel issued a statement on social network X, saying Mr Hanley is 'obviously not much of an expert on the Australian electricity grid'.
He pointed to Australia's growing use of renewable electricity and said thousands of drivers were using '100 per cent clean energy from the sun' to fuel their cars.
'Already today the lifetime emissions of electric vehicles are far better than internal combustion (cars) and that gap is widening as the grid gets cleaner,' he said.
'Aussies are too smart than to be tricked by cynical (public relations) that aims to slow the sustainable transportation transition to help sell internal combustion vehicles in the short-term.'
Figures from the federal energy department show renewable sources generated 32 per cent of Australia's electricity last year, with most from solar followed by wind and hydro.
Electric Vehicle Council chief executive Behyad Jafari says the comments from Toyota also have the potential to undermine a lucrative local industry.
Australia produced more lithium than any other nation in 2022, according to the United States Geological Survey – the main element used to produce electric vehicle batteries.
'You'd think that common sense would tell you to push back against arguments that talk down Aussie jobs and opportunities in a booming battery sector,' Mr Jafari said.
'These comments go against what's in the best interest of both Australian consumers looking to save on fuel bills and Australia's economy by talking down the battery industry when we're the ones who can supply