Does Toyota’s New Study Promote Hybrids at the Expense of EVs?

The new vehicles’ announcement has been used by Toyota to publicize the highlights of a new internal investigation that assesses the environmental impact and cost of ownership between a PHEV and a BEV. The problem? It offers results that are controversial and deserve a detailed study.

For this research, Toyota created a tool that shows the balance between GHG emissions and the total cost of ownership. The source code for this tool is publicly available at for others to experiment with the various input parameters and see the movement of BEVs and PHEVs in the GHG and cost graph.

The research highlights the following points:

  • The GHGs of a currently available BEV model and the PHEV model is approximately the same in highway performance when pollutants created by electricity production are taken into account for the average US power grid used to charge batteries.
  • Manufacturing is a component of GHG emissions. Using the “Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions and Energy Use in Technologies” (GREET) model, the researchers found that producing a PHEV emits less GHG as it uses a smaller and lighter battery.
  • The PHEV is much less expensive to buy and own compared to the BEV. The five-year total cost of ownership (TCO) of a long-range BEV is significantly higher than the PHEV without any incentive. If you include incentives available this year (2020), the TCO of a long-range BEV is much higher.

Biased results?

These research results are striking while clearly showing the basis for the study’s approach, which could improve the performance of plug-in hybrids at the expense of pure electric cars.

The first point does not include the emissions from the well to the wheel of fossil fuels necessary to power a PHEV, but it does use the energy mix used in the United States to recharge a BEV, something that penalizes the second.

Once again, Toyota seems to show its real face trying to enhance the image of a technology that has marked the group’s identity for the last 25 years.

The brand known for its ‘self-charging car’ ads continues to deliver messages like Carter’s to the world: ‘We continue to be a leader in electrification that began with our pioneering introduction of the Prius nearly 25 years ago’.

While waiting to see the two 100% electric models designed for the US market, Toyota, like many other manufacturers, continues to appropriate the term “electrification” to make up its range powered mainly by internal combustion engines supported by hybrid systems.

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