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Toyota Chief Scientist Pratt makes the case for hybrids and plug-ins

In a post published on Medium, Gill Pratt, Toyota Motor Corporation’s Chief Scientist and the CEO of Toyota Research Institute, explains why he is not a proponent of ditching ICE and switching to only BEVs as soon as possible. He argues that a diversity of electrified drivetrain types are better means of addressing climate change than “a monoculture of only BEVs” for two main reasons:

  • Battery cell production is expensive, uses natural resources and produces significant greenhouse gases. Maximizing the benefit of every battery cell produced requires using them smartly.

    This means putting them into a greater number of “right sized” electrified vehicles, including HEVs and PHEVs, instead of placing them all into a fewer number of long-range BEVs, like my model X. This is particularly important because presently it is difficult to recycle the kinds of batteries used in BEVs. If we are to achieve carbon neutrality, we must pay attention to all parts of the “3R” process — Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.

    For example, we hardly ever put gas into our RAV4 Prime PHEV, which has a battery ⅙ as large as our Model X BEV. For the same investment in batteries as our single Model X, five other RAV4 Prime customers could reduce their carbon footprint too.

  • Second, different people have different needs. In some parts of the world, people have access to highly renewable electric power and BEV rapid charging stations. In many other parts of the world, rapid chargers are rare, or electricity is generated with high carbon emissions resulting in BEVs putting more net carbon into the air over their lifetime than PHEVs and in some cases even HEVs.

    So, even if the best choice for the average person someday becomes a BEV, it will not be the best way for every person to contribute to reducing carbon emissions, or for the most carbon emissions to be eliminated.

Carbon is the enemy, not ICEs, Pratt writes, adding that in many parts of the world for some time to come, PHEVs and even HEVs will generate comparable or less lifetime carbon than BEVs. Toyota has open-sourced a modeling and simulation tool to support this contention.

(This is counter—specifically in relationship to PHEVs— to the conclusion in the recent ICCT lifecycle analysis (earlier post), which found that compared to average BEVs in the United States, Europe, and China, the life-cycle GHG emissions for PHEVs are 43%–64%, 123%–138%, and 39%–58% higher for cars registered in 2021 and 53%–100%, 171%–197%, and 94%–166% higher for cars expected to be registered in 2030.)

The atmosphere accumulates carbon over long periods of time, so the carbon we emit now will be with us for a century or more. Our responsibility is clear: We must eliminate carbon emissions as soon as possible. As a scientist, I know that, to paraphrase Einstein, the solution of how to eliminate carbon as soon as possible should be as simple as possible, but no simpler.

As a result, I believe, as does Toyota, that it would be a tremendous mistake for governments around the world to prescribe narrow solutions like insisting that all vehicles be BEVs. Instead, the better solution is to allow manufacturers to innovate across a diversity of drivetrains and drivers to choose the low-carbon drivetrain that suits their circumstances best.



Toyota have it right as usual.
Unfortunately present battery chemistry can not get down to the $50-60KWh at the pack level needed for cheaper cars to be cost competitive ex subsidy,

Money is being taken to subsidise the better off motorists on a false prospectus of driving the costs down so that everyone can benefit 'real soon,'

It is years and completely different chemistry away.

That is what all the bottom up studies show, which don't rely on time share salesman like tricks of 'if costs decrease by x percent a year then by..'

As materials costs assume a greater and greater part of total cost and the benefits of mass production lose most of their potency in reducing costs, we are left with the fact that the materials in current batteries are just too expensive.


Using the most favourable possible assumptions, a non cobalt chemistry, mass production in large volume, and without taking into account overhead and capital investment, we see from Table 4 that the minimum cost given is $92.2KWh

For a reasonable range 75KWh pack that comes out to around $7,000

The industry has misled politicians, and Toyoda was correct in saying that they don't want cars to become like a flower on a high mountain, out of the reach of most.


I'm a PHEV fanboy. I currently drive a kia Niro PHEV. 80% of my miles are EV.

NIRO is 26 mile range, 60 HP motor, 100 HP ICE.
My ideal PHEV would be 50 mile range, 200 HP motor, 60 HP ICE.


Well, in my maybe not so humble opinion, I think Toyota has it all wrong. I think that GM has it right as usual along with Ford, Renault-Nissan, whatever Chrysler-Fiat became, VW, and most of the rest of the world. With a reasonable plug-in range of at least 50 miles, you still need 15-20 kWhr and you need also have all of the expense and maintenance of an IC engine. I own a Chevy Bolt and my next car or truck will also be electric. The Bolt and the Nissan Leaf are currently available with a price in the low $30K range without subsidies and the price vs performance has been falling.



So what are your costings per KWh for batteries using current chemistries?



How much time do you spend charging on a 600 mile road trip with your Bolt?


Et al:
Depends on your lifestyle; as a retiree, I drive about 8k miles a year so, I've been driving a 2011 Leaf for the last 10 years and just traded on a Toyota dealer's lot for a used 2019 Leaf for $13k. I've saved a pile of $s in gasoline and maintenance cost avoidance alone.
I think Toyota is putting out propaganda to sell as many obsolete cars as they can before the EVs take over the market.
Some say In five years, gassers won't have much trade in value, if any; gas stations will be closing all over as demand drops and the price of gasoline/diesel will rise out of consideration as the oil executives maintain profits by charging more for fuel while selling less product.
Believe what you must; but, understand the CEO of Toyota is still an automobile salesman.


@Davemart, I am not sure what it cost GM to make the battery but I would guess that is under well $100 per kWhr. I do know that it costs me less than $0.03 per mile to drive based on 0.11 per kWhr and an a average of 4.1 miles per kWhr. I have driven the Bolt over 40,000 miles in about 2 years and 4 months.

@charlesH. I have never driven more than about 150 miles and I have never charged using DC fast charging but GM claims about 200 miles per hour for DC fast charging so you would spend at least 2 hours. The new Cadillac LYRIQ which has a different battery chemistry will have more than 300 miles of range and charges at about 195 miles in 30 minutes so you should be able to spend less than an hour charging to drive 600 miles.

@Lad, Unfortunately, it will probably take more than 5 years for the gas stations to start closing but I could believe that the value of gas/diesel vehicles will decrease as people start to realize how much they can save with electric vehicles. Also more fun to drive. Judging by the sound, I made a Ferrari try hard to keep up the other day.



"@charlesH. I have never driven more than about 150 miles and I have never charged using DC fast charging"

"so you would spend at least 2 hours"

Yes, EV s work best for local miles. ICE work best for road trips. A PHEV puts both technologies in the same car. That's why many of us like them best. ( And they're currently cheaper.)



All sorts of costs are chucked about to encourage the notion that big batteries will be economic 'real soon' so more subsidies, please.

They usually confuse the cost to the manufacturer to buy the basic cell with costs at the pack level, and then the cost to the manufacturer with what they have to charge to the customer to stay in business, not to mention little things like ignoring overhead and capital costs.

I have given one bottom up analysis, and others which I have looked at in the past are broadly in concurrence, as you can read off a lot of it from materials prices for a start.

To be clear, I have nothing against BEVs, and neither have Toyota who have been pursuing the electrification of transport since their foundation, and continue to have one of the largest battery research organisations in the world, with among the top patents.

But present chemistries preclude long range BEVs at any rate at the cheaper end of the market being truly competitive ex mandate and subsidies.

Here in the UK as well as numerous other perks including higher rate tax exemption and exemption from the London Congestion Charge and subsidies for the fast charging roll out, exemption from fuel tax means a saving of around £1000 pa for an average mileage driver for a start.

The market for long range BEVs here would more or less not exist without such massive money transfers to better off motorists.

Toyota want to provide products everyone can afford.

Roger Pham

TEN reasons why adding small a gas engine would much enhance a typical BEV.
1.. Lower cost of ownership by $10,000 USD for a PHEV car and $20,000 for a full-size PHEV pickup truck, having TWICE the range of a comparable BEV.
2.. Instant refueling for long trips at 120,000 gas stations in the USA, no need to re-route trips or cancel trips to catch Superchargers.
3.. Overnight charging from 120-V home socket for local trips in a PHEV, no need for $1,700 extra for a level-2 charger at home like a BEV would need, thanks to the range-extender in a PHEV.
4.. Dual-Energy-source security would make a PHEV superior to a BEV or a gasoline car.
5.. Evacuation from forest fires or hurricanes would be far more convenient in a PHEV than in a BEV due to much wider availability of gasoline stations. Potential power outage during evacuation due to compromised infrastructures along the roadway would favor a PHEV over a BEV.
6.. Towing a trailer can halve the range of any towing vehicle, and this is of no problem in a PHEV, but can seriously impact the mission performance of a BEV due to too much time spent in re-charging vs driving, and problem finding a charging station along the route.
7.. Battery material supply chain, battery manufacturing, and battery recycling can support 5 to 10 times the number of PHEV than BEV. This is a very big gain in benefit to cost ratio in favor of PHEV.
8.. Prolonged power outage during severe winter snow storms would favor a PHEV that can supply electricity and waste heat to one's house and can be filled up in minutes with a gasoline can or a short trip to the local gas station...vs a BEV that will run out of juice and stranded and letting everyone freeze in the cold.
9.. Of course, having a 10-kW back-up generator would avoid this problem, but why wasting extra money on a 10-kW backup generator after wasting a lot more money buying a BEV, when a PHEV can do the same while costing a lot less, and at no extra cost to buy backup generator, no need for extra storage space, and no need for routine maintenance of the backup generator to ensure that the generator would run when needed.
10.. Having a high-power portable source of electricity to the tune of 10 kW for contractors is a big plus for PHEV, without having to haul around a 100-lb big 10-kW generator that would take up most of the space of the pickup truck bed. Of course, a BEV pickup truck can do the same, but one may not have enough juice left in the battery to get to a charging station that may be far away...a big minus for a BEV pickup truck for a serious contractor.



I agree! A 50-100 mile EV with a 50 hp range extender / backup generator is my preferred configuration.

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I would like to believe that Toyota believes in PHEV and BEV, but reality tells me that they are "Plug Averse".
Why are there only two Toyota PHEV and are not produced in greater numbers?
What could be the best BEV in the world is the Toyota BZ - a joint venture between Toyota, BYD, Subaru, and Suzuki. It has the BYD "blade LFP battery" and Cell-to-Pack battery design. You only need a 65 kWh battery and for those rare occasions you need a 400 mile range Suzuki could build a Range Extender.
Sadly, this is only a "China Compliance Vehicle", so don't expect a worldwide rollout.
What Gill Pratt is saying is "Please do not outlaw ICE vehicles".
BTW the best auto I ever owned was a 1982 Toyota Supra, wish I still had it, too.

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You may want to read this Car and Driver article, "Ford F-150 Electric Pickup May Get Newly Patented Range Extender in Its Bed". https://www.caranddriver.com/news/a34277725/ford-f-150-range-extender-ev-pickup-patent/.

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