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Toyota of Europe Talks Up Sustainable Mobility

12 October 2006

by Jack Rosebro

Toyota_ecopyramid
The hybrid lens. Toyota’s Eco-Pyramid. Click to enlarge.

Speaking today at the Latsis Symposium “Research Frontiers in Energy Science and Technology” at the Swiss Federal institute of Technology in Zürich, Didier Stevens, who manages government affairs for Toyota of Europe, discussed the company’s strategies for achieving sustainable mobility. He also—albeit briefly—touched on life after automobiles.

Toyota’s official definition of sustainable mobility is that used by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development as part of that organization’s Mobility Project 2030:

...mobility that meets the needs of society to move freely, gain access, communicate, trade and establish relationships without sacrificing other essential human or ecological requirements today or in the future.

That definition, in turn, borrows heavily from the Brundtland definition of sustainable development, as published in the 1987 UN report Our Common Future:

...development that satisfies the needs of the present generation without endangering the needs of future generations.

Stevens outlined the challenges faced by society: 1.2 billion vehicles projected to be in use by 2020 (800 million today) as well as air quality, climate change, and energy demand. “We may already be in trouble,” he said, noting that the clash between healthy economy and healthy environment “should not be ‘either-or’, but ‘both, and more.’”

Dcat
Toyota’s D-CAT clean diesel system, with DPNR catalyst. Click to enlarge.

He recited a litany of diversified low-emission technologies that will be familiar to regular readers of Green Car Congress: Toyota’s D-CAT diesel technology (earlier post), their rapidly-expanding hybrid vehicle line-up, and their work with battery-assisted hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles (earlier post). “We don’t build fuel-cell vehicles,” he quipped, “we build fuel-cell hybrids.

Stevens expressed particular interest in “the diesel-ization of Europe” (observing that 73% of new-car sales in Belgium are now diesels) as well as the maturation of bio-fuels: “The first generation of biofuels had problems. The second generation is better.

However, given the anticipated worldwide demand for increased vehicle production, it is quite possible that even in a best-case scenario—one in which clean technologies and efficient transportation strategies are rapidly adopted by all countries—accelerated economic growth and subsequent vehicle production may dash all hopes that Toyota (or any other vehicle manufacturer) currently has of even stabilizing its overall greenhouse gas emissions within the next few decades, much less reducing it.

Furthermore, as University of Bern climate researcher Thomas Stocker reminded the audience during an earlier presentation, prevailing data now indicates that it takes about 100 to 200 years for the effects of anthropogenic CO2 to be fully realized.

And even if zero-emissions vehicles (a goal of Toyota as part of its “Zeronize and Maximize” philosophy) are used to satisfy the unyielding demand for vehicles, that demand will require increased material flows from natural resources, increased energy usage to manufacture them, and increased materials and energy to build larger road infrastructures.

We are a car manufacturer, and we want to remain a car manufacturer,” Stevens noted, acknowledging Toyota’s responsibility to contribute to society. “Otherwise, we had better stop.

During a question-and-answer session that followed Stevens’ talk, he acknowledged that Toyota is involved in research extending, in the words of one session participant, “beyond the private motorcar,” and that while such research is primarily based in Japan, some is being conducted in Europe.

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October 12, 2006 in Europe, Hybrids, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

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The ultimate goal needs to be mobility per se, not necessarily so called personal mobility. The goal should be the efficient movement of people and objects through space, when necessary. However, where feasible, society should work at the goal to make transporation not necessary for the maximum number of human activites, especially work activities. While we should subsidize high mileage vehicles, we should also subsidize arrangements that facilitate activities that encourage people to work at home. We should also encourage cities, towns, and developments that allow people to fulfill most of their needs without use of the automobile or even mass transit.

Boulder County, Colorado, for example, has an initiative on the November ballot which will complement the already approved region wide mass transit system, Fastracks. This initiative plans for the future by providing money to complete a network of county wide bicyle/pedestrian trails, on call transit for senior citizens, and the wider availability of low cost Eco passes to be used for mass transit.

This will complement the already extensive system of dedicated bicycle trails and bicycle lanes within the city of Boulder. I have personally found this an excellent way to get around the city with a minimum of hassle.

I think all car companies should be interested in sustained personal mobility, since their futures in the car business depends on it.

Any effort towards finding cleaner and renewable energy sources particilarely auto fuel sources is a highly commendable necessity today. while the technologically advanced countries, particularly because of being better organised to cahnnelise efforts, can develop the technology faster than the not so developed countries it is basically in the tropical and sub-tropical countries that bio waste is available in large quantities at a collection cost that is almost negligible. Any effort to tie in the technology for exploitation of bio waste availibility is likely to result faster and more substantial progress in reducing dependence on fossil fuels. I am an Indian and the amount of biological waste that goes waste there is phenomenal. As a matter of fact being a retired person with technical background,engr. by profession, a lot of energies left and desire to serve humsnity not necessary for reward of any kind except the reward of being able to contribute my lttle bit in whatever manner, I would feel obliged if I can be part of the global effort. For any one who may like to get in touch the email address is dc031040@yahoo.com

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