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TOKYO REPORT: Japanese automakers promoting electric vehicles in earnest

  • February 8, 2021
  • , Jiji Press , 7:30 p.m.
  • English Press

Tokyo, Feb. 8 (Jiji Press)–Leading Japanese automakers are shifting their marketing of electric vehicles into higher gear to keep up with accelerating moves to toughen clean air regulations at home and abroad.

 

Japanese automakers are being pushed to step up vehicle electrification by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions in Japan to net zero by 2050.

 

Stronger pressure for electrification is also coming from abroad. Britain has decided to ban sales of new gasoline vehicles, including hybrid vehicles, and diesel vehicles in 2035. The U.S. state of California has issued an administrative order to prohibit sales of new gasoline vehicles from the same year.

 

China has announced a road map to raise the share of electric vehicles and other eco-friendly vehicles to 50 pct or more of all new vehicles sold in the world’s largest auto market in 2035.

 

As trends in China affect other markets, the Chinese government’s bold road map is seen aimed at further expanding the domestic market and taking the initiative in the global market.

 

Toyota Motor Corp. <7203> hopes to raise its yearly sales of electric vehicles, hybrid vehicles and other electric-powered models to more than 5.5 million units, or more than half of total sales, by 2025.

 

Honda Motor Co. <7267> aims to have electric-powered vehicles account for two-thirds of its total new vehicle sales by 2030, up from about 10 pct at present.

 

Toyota and Honda adopted the aggressive sales targets in a bid to catch up with Nissan Motor Co. <7201>, which leads the domestic electric vehicle market.

 

Honda released its first mass-produced electric vehicle, called the Honda e, in October 2020. The model has a range of 283 kilometers on a single charge, shorter than those of electric vehicles produced by other manufacturers, but can make a U-turn within the width of a standard two-way street.

 

In December, Toyota began selling its C+pod two-seater electric vehicle, with a single-charge range of some 150 km for use by local governments and other organizations. The biggest Japanese automaker plans to release the model for personal use in 2022.

 

The electric vehicles developed by Toyota and Honda are designed for short-range driving.

 

In contrast, Nissan will put a large electric SUV on the market under the name of Ariya later in 2021. With a single-charge range of 430 to 610 km, the Ariya will set itself apart from the models of Toyota and Honda. Nissan hopes that the SUV will contribute to a turnaround in its earnings.

 

Although the Japanese market for electric vehicles is coming to life, hurdles remain to their widespread use.

 

Electric vehicles account for less than 1 pct of total new automobile sales in Japan. “Electric vehicles are by no means good for daily use” due to their short ranges and the scarcity of charging stations, an automaker executive said on the weak demand for them.

 

But shifts to electric vehicles are gathering pace overseas. They account for nearly 10 pct of new auto sales in Germany, while the market is expanding in China thanks to government support.

 

Technological advances and infrastructure improvements are essential to enable Japanese automakers to catch up with overseas rivals.

 

Another stumbling block to widespread use of electric vehicles is high battery prices, which make production hardly profitable, according to an automaker.

 

Securing rare materials for the production of electric vehicle batteries is also difficult.

 

All-out efforts involving both the public and private sectors are needed to overcome those and other challenges and allow Japanese automakers to compete squarely with overseas rivals on the development of electric vehicles, analysts said.

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