As a global automaker serving 200 countries, Toyota must take into account the wide variety of conditions in those various markets, including the needs of the 1 billion or so people who don't have reliable access to electricity. Through a translator, he cautioned that regulations "tend to narrow the options available for solutions toward carbon neutrality."
Longer term, he sees hydrogen combustion as a compelling offering. In the short term, hybrids may provide the greatest good, he suggested, noting that Toyota can produce eight plug-in hybrids with 40 miles of electric range for every 320-mile battery-electric vehicle and save up to eight times the carbon emitted into the atmosphere.
Toyoda, in Las Vegas for the automaker's annual dealer meeting, met with a handful of journalists to discuss carbon neutrality and the auto industry's role in slowing global warming. He also addressed the impression that Toyota is behind in the race to bring EVs to market.
EVs "are just going to take longer than the media would like us to believe," Toyoda told the dealers during their meeting. He pledged to offer the "widest possible" array of powertrains to propel cars cleanly. "That's our strategy, and we're sticking to it," he said.
"Some are racing to a finish line of all-electric," he said in the prepared remarks released before his meeting with journalists. The automaker is working in all markets and segments to reduce carbon emissions as rapidly as possible and "does not see a finish line until Toyota gets to carbon neutrality."
In prepared remarks, he said Toyota is "balancing the infrastructure we have today with the energy we need for tomorrow."
Late last year, Toyota committed ¥8 trillion (worth $70 billion at the time) to electrify its lineup by 2030, half of it to develop a BEV lineup, as it looks to tap a growing market for ZEVs.
Toyota expects its sales of full-electric vehicles to reach just 3.5 million by the end of the decade, or just over a third of its current global volume.
The company plans to introduce 30 EVs by 2030, but even its large investment plans are less grand than those of General Motors and Ford Motor Co.
Toyota's luxury Lexus arm aims to have a full lineup of BEVs in all segments by 2030 and for BEVs to make up all of its global sales in 2035 in Europe, North America and China — totaling 1 million globally.
In addition, Toyota has committed $3.8 billion to build a factory in North Carolina to make batteries for hybrids and EVs.
Toyoda said a lack of sufficient infrastructure will hold back EV adoption rates, which is a factor in Toyota's decision not to go all-in on electricity to the exclusion of hybrids, hydrogen combustion or hydrogen fuel cells.
"Toyota is a department store of all sorts of powertrains," he told reporters. "It's not right for the department store to say, 'This is the product you should buy.' "
Bloomberg contributed to this report.