By Jack Rosebro
|Blueprint of Toyota propulsion and fuel technology development, 2008-2030+. Click to enlarge.|
Concurrent with the release of its annual financial report, Toyota has published Sustainability Report 2008: Towards a New Future for People, Society, and the Planet. The report, which is the third since Toyota switched from environmental to sustainability reports in 2006, is structured around three themes: sustainable mobility (products), sustainable plant initiatives (manufacturing), and contributing to the development of a sustainable society—also referred to as “nurturing society.”
The themes constitute the foundation of Toyota’s vision of the global corporate image that it wants to achieve by 2020. Global Vision 2020 was developed last year on the occasion of the company’s 70th anniversary, and envisions a society in which “cycles of nature” operate in harmony with “cycles of industry”, leading to, in the words of Toyota president Katsuaki Watanabe, a “prosperous, low-carbon society”.
|2001-2007 CO2 reduction, per Toyota vehicle and per unit of sales revenue. Click to enlarge.|
As part of its efforts toward the vision, Toyota implemented the Fourth Toyota Environmental Action Plan in 2006. One goal of the plan was to continue the work commenced in the Third Environmental Action Plan, with a resultant 20% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2020, as compared to 2001 emissions. According to Toyota, the company has already realized a reduction of 32%. However, this reduction refers to total carbon dioxide emissions per unit of sales, rather than total emissions. Toyota now produces 50% more vehicles per year than it did in 2001.
Reduced fuel consumption per vehicle is one of Toyota’s primary strategies against environmental deterioration. According to the company, the average fuel efficiency of new Toyota passenger vehicles sold in Japan, Europe and the US increased by 17.4% between 1997 and 2007. Toyota and other automakers often calculate this trend in terms of improvement per gross income unit as well as per vehicle; were Toyota to expand that rate of fuel efficiency improvements worldwide, and maintain the rate of improvement for the next two decades, the company would see a cumulative fuel efficiency improvement, per average vehicle, of almost 40%.
|2001-2007 Toyota vehicle production worldwide. Click to enlarge.|
However, if vehicle sales growth were to continue at the 4.6% rate that Toyota saw in 2007-2008—termed a “severe” year by Watanabe—the company’s vehicle production would more than double by 2028. An across-the-board 40% reduction of vehicle fuel consumption—and therefore greenhouse gas production—would not be sufficient to prevent a net increase of greenhouse gas emissions produced by vehicles built and sold in that year.
Approximately 800 to 900 million passenger vehicles exist worldwide, increasing by around 100 million vehicles every five years for the past two decades. Toyota projects that “this increase is expected to continue in the future, particularly in developing countries, meaning that ownership will likely exceed 1 billion vehicles in 2010 and reach 1.5 billion vehicles in 2020.”
Although an explicit strategy to reduce the overall greenhouse gas production of its products is noticeably absent from the Toyota’s greenhouse gas reduction goals, Sustainability Report 2008 reflects signs of concern within the company that externalities may bring growth to a halt before that time:
Additionally, with the continuing expansion of the economies of the BRICs countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China), which have experienced tremendous growth since the 1990's, global energy consumption is forecast to continue rising. This situation increases both the possibility of supply shortages and resource exhaustion, and the severity of the air pollution issue caused by production activities in factories and the use of vehicles for logistical and human transportation.
A recent presentation by Toyota’s Bill Reinert, who coordinates research, development and marketing activities related to alternative-fueled vehicles and emerging technologies for Toyota Motor Sales USA, brought those concerns into focus. At July’s Meeting of the Minds conference on sustainable cities in Portland, for which Toyota was the lead sponsor, Reinert stated that according to Toyota’s research, a nexus of energy demands and resource depletion could well create a “liquid peak” within a decade, even if all available liquid fuels were to be produced at maximum global capacity without concern for environmental degradation.
In addition to its research on hybrids, plug-in hybrids, electric vehicles, and hydrogen fuel-cell hybrids, Toyota is collaborating with Nippon Oil on biohydrorefined diesel oil (BHD) (earlier post), and is researching biomass-to-liquid (BTL) fuels. The company “hopes to begin production” of cellulosic ethanol as soon as possible.
Sustainable Plant Initiatives
The environmental flagship of Toyota’s manufacturing facilities is its Tsutsumi plant, which the company says has moved closest to their goal of manufacturing that “fully utilizes natural resources, while operating in harmony with the natural environment”. As of the end of fiscal year 2006, CO2 emissions from Tsutsumi, which produces the Prius, had been halved compared to 1990 levels. A 2 MW photovoltaic power generation system, in parallel with battery energy storage, provides about half of the electricity in the plant’s assembly area.
Extensive afforestation around Tsutsumi has utilized 55 different species of trees in an effort to support wildlife habitats, and the exterior of the plant has been painted with photocatalytic paint that breaks down nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and other emissions.
One plant in each of Toyota’s major manufacturing regions will serve as a “model sustainable plant” to encourage sustainable manufacturing worldwide. Toyota’s recently constructed Ban Pho plant in Thailand was designed to be the new model plant in Asia, eclipsing Tsutsumi. Like Tsutsumi, Ban Pho utilizes solar power as well as on-site cogeneration. Ban Pho is unique in that it has produced zero landfill waste from the beginning of its operation.
Toyota also estimates that its worldwide water consumption from all activities has dropped about 5% since 2003, to 15.4 million cubic meters per year, despite increased sales.
A significant portion of the “social contribution” section of Sustainable Report 2008 is devoted to Toyota’s development of partner robots. More than 20% of Japan’s population were aged 65 years or older in 2005, and that percentage is expected to double by 2055, creating a “seniors caring for seniors” society. In addition to its development of manufacturing robots, Toyota is developing robots that are designed to assist with nursing and medical care in addition to domestic duties. The company envisions commercial applications of “lifestyles that include robots” sometime in the next decade.
The report also highlights Toyota’s Environmental Activities Grant Program as part of the company’s social contribution. Approximately ¥1.4 billion (US$12.9 million) in grants have been distributed worldwide.