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Japan Elevates Hybrid Policy After Toyota Chief’s Warning

A controversy is raging in Japan over the head of Toyota Motor’s insistence that hybrid vehicles be put on an equal footing with battery-powered electric cars. Japanese officials changed a key policy document that put hybrid vehicles on par with battery-electric cars after Toyota chief Akio Toyoda warned an MP that carmakers could not back a government that rejected hybrid engine technology, like that used in the Prius, according to notes from a ruling party meeting.

The wording changes, which included adding a reference to “so-called electric-powered vehicles”, appear to put fossil-fuel burning hybrids on equal footing with zero-emission battery vehicles, even though environmentalists say there is a vast difference.

Japan‘s auto industry, particularly Toyota, has been under pressure from environmentalists and green investors who say it has been too slow to embrace battery-electric vehicles and lobbied governments to undermine a transition to them. Akira Amari, a former industry minister and a veteran member of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), requested the change to the government’s annual economic policy roadmap during a meeting held earlier in June, saying he had spoken with Akio Toyoda a day earlier, according to a review of notes and audio. It is pertinent to mention that Akio Toyoda is both chairman of the Japanese Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) lobby as well as the president of Toyota Motors.
Amari told the policy meeting of LDP lawmakers, according to the notes and audio. He said:

“I spoke with chairman Toyoda and he said that JAMA cannot endorse a government that rejects hybrids. Use of synthetic fuel, such as from hydrogen, would make hybrids “100% clean energy” cars and the policy document should make that explicit. If we don’t make that clear, JAMA will push back with all its might. If we don’t say that hybrids are included in the category of electric vehicles, that won’t look good.”

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