by Jack Rosebro
|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.’”
|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.