Lexus to lead electric-car development for Toyota, but won’t turn its back on hybrid tech

Toyota’s luxury division Lexus is on the brink of unveiling new-generation electric-car technology, but says it has no plans to stop production of hybrid cars on its path to carbon neutrality. 

Toyota’s luxury division Lexus has echoed its parent company’s stance on the future of petrol cars by committing to a new generation of electric vehicles – but not at the expense of hybrid vehicles.

Hybrid technology developed by Toyota and Lexus has halved the consumption and emissions of more than 20 million vehicles over the past 20 years.

The Japanese company – the world’s largest automaker by volume – has always insisted there is more than one way to reduce vehicle emissions, which has put it at odds with the electric-car lobby.

As with Toyota, its luxury offshoot Lexus says not every region in the world is ready to shift to electric power – but there are still useful ways to reduce vehicle emissions with hybrid technology.

It has previously said it plans to go electric by 2035 – but it seems petrol, diesel and hybrid cars will remain in development for now.

In a roundtable interview with international media in Japan the global boss of Lexus, Takashi Watanabe, said Lexus “will be the explorer” on electric-car technology on behalf of Toyota.

However, he cautioned, Lexus is “taking both pathways to eventually achieve 100 per cent carbon neutrality” – referring to concurrent development of hybrid and electric cars.

“We have the Toyota corporate vision … to determine when and whether or not we want to stop development of (petrol) engines,” said Mr Watanabe.

“If you look at the global situation, we cannot 100 per cent definitely say (electric vehicle technology) is the only solution to the current environmental issues.

“In some regions of the world, (electric cars) may still not be a convenient solution (for low-emissions motoring).

“What’s most critical is the role each and every brand under the Toyota Corporation plays in achieving carbon neutrality.

“Toyota is a brand which embarks on multiple pathways to provide an optimum solution to people in all different parts of the world … with a diversified range of options.

“If you look at this at Toyota corporate level, there is no way we are going to immediately discontinue development of (petrol engine) development.

“Some regions in the world are using (petrol and hybrid) technology to drive or get closer to carbon neutrality … which is much more effective (in their particular circumstances).”

The top Lexus executive also noted: “The role Lexus will play in Toyota is to develop (electric vehicle) technology and we will push the boundaries so we can have a new way of car-making.”

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Joshua Dowling has been a motoring journalist for more than 20 years, spending most of that time working for The Sydney Morning Herald (as motoring editor and one of the early members of the Drive team) and News Corp Australia. He joined CarAdvice / Drive in 2018, and has been a World Car of the Year judge for more than 10 years.

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