When Toyota announced its all new Toyota Prius, my fellow TreeHugger Mike was disappointed that it was not a plug-in hybrid by default. Whatever the reasoning behind that decision, the long term outlook for Toyota's entire product range is considerably more ambitious.
As reported over at Automotive News, Toyota has revealed the Toyota Environmental Challenge 2050—an initiative that is aiming for 90% cuts in average vehicle CO2 emissions, and 100% emission cuts from the company's factories. Along the way, Toyota is also planning to sell 30,000 fuel cell vehicles and 7 million more hybrids by 2020. And the company is also arguing that electrified drivetrains will become a much bigger deal in the future too.
You don't have to do an awful lot of Googling to find skepticism in some quarters around Toyota's focus on fuel cells versus plug-in electric vehicles. But I suspect the larger significance—at this stage of the game—is that the largest motor company in the world (ranked by production volume) is now committed to all but eliminating fossil fuels from both its manufacturing plants and its vehicle drivetrains in the next 35 years.
Much like the G7's promise of eventual decarbonization, these types of announcements will—simply by virtue of the message they send to markets—shift investment patterns and help make a low/zero emissions future happen.
How we get there will shake out as different players roll out different approaches and we see which ones take hold.
Given that Volkswagen (ranked the world's third largest automaker by volume) is responding to the diesel scandal by promising a major ramp up of plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles, and that the automotive establishment is being given a serious run for its money by zero emissions upstarts like Tesla (and, in the not-too-distant future, some obscure company called Apple), there is very good reason for the oil industry to be worried. And given that Toyota is by no means the only corporation aiming for 100% renewable energy in its manufacturing operations, the coal giants are likely fretting too.
Maybe Shell Oil made the right choice in putting Arctic drilling on hold.