WASHINGTON - A top executive at Toyota Motor North America Inc. says that development of battery-powered electric cars and trucks has reached a technological dead end.
Jim Olson, Toyota's senior vice president for external and regulatory affairs, said on Thursday, Oct. 19, that despite years of research, an electric vehicle still costs about $20,000 more to build than a comparable car or truck and can't meet consumer needs.
The blunt assessment comes at the same time the California Air Resources Board is preparing to reinstate its electric vehicle mandate.
The board voted last month to require electric vehicles beginning in 2003. It is holding a workshop Wednesday, Oct. 25, to discuss details of implementing the so-called zero-emission-vehicle, or ZEV, mandate.
The ZEV mandate 'is not doing anything,' Olson said. 'It is not cleaning the air. It is a religion.' He said the requirement forces companies to divert resources from more promising work, such as improving gasoline-electric hybrids.
The Toyota statements are significant because the company has cast itself as an environmental technology leader that tries not only to meet but also to exceed government regulatory requirements.
But the whole industry objects to the pending California rules.
Josephine Cooper, president of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, warned last week that the mandate creates a potential financial disaster for dealers and consumers.
The requirement is that 10 percent of the vehicles delivered by major manufacturers in California in 2003 have zero emissions. Companies can get partial credit for conventional or hybrid vehicles with extremely low emissions.
Olson's remarks came during an environmental technology seminar Toyota held in Washington for federal officials, congressional staff and members of environmental groups.
Hiroyuki Watanabe, managing director of Toyota Motor Corp., said the 47,000 Prius hybrids sold in Japan so far already exceed the number of electric-only vehicles ever sold by all manufacturers worldwide - 30,000.