Japanese company director defends hydrogen and synthetic fuels to meet European CO2 reduction targets
Tom Fux has been with Toyota since 1998. Since 2021, as Vice President of European Sales, he has been responsible for overseeing sales, marketing, value chain and customer experience for Toyota and Lexus. During this time, it has been dealing with the auto crisis, now exacerbated by hyperinflation. The manager explains to ABC how they are addressing these challenges of the Japanese company.
— How has this affected Toyota’s plans, after Covid, the semiconductor crisis and the war in Ukraine?
—Of course, the situation in Ukraine is a humanitarian crisis that is of great concern to us. In fact, we have many Ukrainian workers. We have helped some 1,500 families by offering them shelter, flats, education for their children and even technological resources. Above all, it is a major problem on a humanitarian scale. On the other hand, the situation affects all manufacturers. In addition to these factors, inflation and hyperinflation have further undermined consumer confidence and demand. So we’re in an out of control situation where nothing is predictable, but if Toyota is good at something, it’s been through crises, and that’s what we do.
—How do you deal with this year’s results in Europe and in relation to Spain?
—It’s hard to talk about Europe because for us it covers up to 54 markets, from Norway to Turkey, Israel, Russia, Armenia, etc. But what is certain is that it has been a very depressed market for the past two years. We believe that 2022 is even worse than in times of global crisis such as the crisis of 2009. We therefore see it without a doubt as a problematic market. And now with hyperinflation it has undermined confidence and further reduced purchase intent. This will slow down the market both in Europe in general and in Spain in particular. And what we can do in this context is give customers more certainty. In Spain, for example, we don’t just sell vehicles, we try to apply a 360-degree strategy, with financial services, insurance, leasing or long-term rental, all to make the situation more bearable for customers and more affordable for them to have a to buy a vehicle.
—What do you think of the European Union’s goal of banning incineration by 2035?
—What we believe in Toyota is that the combustion engine is not the enemy, the enemy is CO2. And we need to look at as many approaches as possible to reduce and eliminate carbon emissions. In that sense, we already have 90% electric vehicle sales at Toyota in Europe, we are number 1 in average CO2 reduction. But you have to look at all the available options, hybrids, plug-in hybrids, hydrogen fuel cells, synthetic fuels, and not everyone in the world can drive electric right now, both in terms of infrastructure and charging capacity. The geographical aspect should also be taken into account. In some countries, such as Norway, where the majority of electricity production comes from renewable sources, especially hydropower, it is easier to drive an electric car. In Poland, where most of the production comes from coal-fired power stations, that doesn’t make much sense. And then there are sectors of use where battery-electric vehicles cannot work, for example heavy or long-haul transport, and hydrogen may be a better option. Whole transport sectors, such as trucks, airplanes, ships, where it is much more difficult to apply electric motor and battery technology, and there we have to resort to both the hydrogen fuel cell and synthetic fuels if we really want to achieve the goal of CO2 neutrality for the whole society.
—Isn’t the solution the battery-powered electric car?
—There really aren’t the resources to make all the batteries we need for widespread use. And the costs wouldn’t go down either because they get more expensive. For example, to provide the autonomy an average customer needs, an electric vehicle needs a battery with a capacity of about 70-90 kW. On the other hand, for the Toyota Mirai, which works with the hydrogen cell, a battery with 1.2 kW capacity is sufficient. In other words, we can use the same means to build a battery for an electric vehicle, or between 50 or 60 Mirai that will have the same autonomy. That is why we believe that we should look for the most suitable technological option for each case.
I think it is necessary to get the attention of the governments and the government in Spain. If in a city like Madrid the bus lanes could be used for hydrogen vehicles, that would encourage people to use more hydrogen vehicles, there would be more hydrogen plants, and that would encourage us to make more vehicles than the Toyota Mirai, which is class premium . It is therefore important to form clusters with which the infrastructure can be further developed and made available to the public. We have shown that we are willing to invest in this technology.
—Will the battery car be affordable in terms of price and performance?
—Just focusing on battery electric vehicles will not help us as a whole to reduce CO2. To achieve that goal of zero-emission, non-electric vehicles that are affordable, we need a combination of three things. On the one hand, to do our job, to make the vehicles as affordable as possible. On the other hand, energy suppliers provide an affordable infrastructure to use these vehicles. And thirdly, that the administrations provide the necessary conditions, in the form of incentives, etc., so that people buy these vehicles. We have the example of Norway, where at the moment 85% of the vehicles sold are electric with batteries, and that is because they have the resources in terms of their own renewable energy that they produce, because there is an infrastructure that is accessible to everyone is world, and because the government also gives tax incentives, free parking, etc.
In Norway, the best option is to buy an electric battery. To achieve this kind of situation, we need an agreement in Spain, a collaboration between manufacturers, energy suppliers and the government, to make zero-emission vehicles a reality and affordable. In our case, thinking not to use one technology, but a combination of different technologies, and taking into account the energy mix in Spain between renewable and non-renewable.
Source: La Verdad
I am Ida Scott, a journalist and content author with a passion for uncovering the truth. I have been writing professionally for Today Times Live since 2020 and specialize in political news. My career began when I was just 17; I had already developed a knack for research and an eye for detail which made me stand out from my peers.