Draw up a road map for electrified vehicles to navigate foreign markets

Japan, the United States, Europe and China have set targets for the electrification of vehicles to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Japanese automobile manufacturers must step up their efforts in line with the regulations of other major countries.

Earlier this month, U.S. President Joe Biden announced a target of having half of all new vehicles sold in the United States in 2030 be electrified vehicles.

What constitute electrified vehicles in that goal are electric vehicles and hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles, as well as plug-in hybrid vehicles. PHVs use both a combustion engine and an electric motor, and can be charged at home and elsewhere, but can run solely on electricity only over short distances.

Hybrid vehicles, which mainly use combustion engines and secondarily use electric motors, were excluded. The U.S. regulations, however, are laxer than those in Europe, as the United States is setting the electrified vehicle goal as half of new vehicle sales.

As the United States has a large land mass, there is great demand for large gasoline vehicles suitable for long-distance driving. The Biden administration apparently took into account the circumstances of automobile purchasers and domestic manufacturers in setting the goal for electrified vehicles.

The U.S. goal will have a big impact on Japanese manufacturers. The U.S. automobile market is the world’s second-largest, and Japanese vehicles hold about a 40% share of it.

Hybrid technology, which is a strong point of Japanese automakers, can be used in PHVs that have been recognized as electrified vehicles in the United States. Each Japanese manufacturer needs to make efforts to lower the prices of PHVs and improve the performance of its batteries.

On the other hand, each country and region has different regulations on the sale of hybrids and PHVs. In July this year, the European Union announced a ban on sales of new gasoline vehicles, which includes hybrids and PHVs, from 2035.

In November last year, China, the world’s largest automobile market, set a policy goal of making electric vehicles the mainstream of new vehicle sales in 2035, but it also has indicated a policy of dealing with hybrids and PHVs as eco-friendly vehicles.

Each Japanese manufacturer needs to map out its strategy tailored to the characteristics of each market and to regional regulations.

Japan has set a goal of making all new passenger vehicle sales electrified vehicles by 2035, but this target includes hybrids. Hybrids accounted for about 35% of all new vehicles sold in Japan in 2020. It seems that the government has given consideration to domestic carmakers.

Major countries including the United States, however, have pledged to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050. It remains to be seen whether it is possible to continue selling hybrids in the long run.

In the electric vehicle market, U.S. firm Tesla Inc. and Chinese automakers are in the lead, while Japanese automakers are lagging behind.

In anticipation of electric vehicles becoming the mainstream in the future, there is an urgent need for Japan to respond to the issue through cooperation between the public and private sectors. This must include such measures as expanding the spread of charging facilities, developing next-generation batteries to increase running distance, and paying attention to maintaining employment in the engine and other parts industries.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Aug. 11, 2021.