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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Toyota, Subaru, and Mazda unite for greener engines

Toyota is making strides in revitalizing internal combustion engines (ICEs) with carbon-neutral fuels, contrasting the prevailing shift to electric vehicles (EVs) embraced by major automakers like General Motors, Ford, Volkswagen, and Mercedes-Benz.

In a three-hour “Multipathway Workshop” on Tuesday, Toyota’s President and CEO, Koji Sato, detailed the company’s ambitious plan for achieving carbon neutrality through synthetic e-fuels, biofuels, and liquid hydrogen. In contrast to its rivals, Toyota asserts that the auto industry can more rapidly and efficiently reduce greenhouse gas emissions by offering diverse alternative powertrains, such as hybrids and plug-in hybrids, technologies it has pioneered for years. Toyota’s multi-pathway approach involves enhancing ICE technologies to align them with carbon-neutral fuels.

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In a groundbreaking move, Toyota plans to collaborate with Subaru and Mazda to encourage the development of “signature engines” while jointly exploring alternative fuels. Toyota’s signature powerplants will continue to be used in hybrids and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) featuring smaller ICEs. Subaru will focus on horizontally opposed engines, and Mazda aims to revive its iconic Wankel rotary engines.

“The three engines, driven by a common ambition for carbon neutrality, will enhance engine technologies through a collaborative yet competitive spirit,” remarked Sato. This joint endeavor emphasizes a shared objective among automakers to advance ICE technologies for the electrification era and broaden opportunities for carbon neutrality.

Mazda Motors Corp. President and CEO Masahiro Moro expressed optimism regarding the rotary engine’s suitability for electrification and carbon-neutral fuels. “Mazda remains committed to advancing this technology through collaborative innovation and competition to ensure its widespread societal impact,” Moro affirmed.

Subaru Corp. President and CEO Atsushi Osaki underscored the company’s dual strategy of advancing electrification technology while enhancing its horizontally opposed engines to eventually accommodate carbon-neutral fuels.

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While Toyota expresses optimism, the effectiveness of carbon-neutral synthetic fuels and biofuels remains uncertain, as the workshop did not delve into their technical specifics. In the early 2000s, carbon-neutral alternative fuels garnered attention from automakers, oil companies, and startups. However, the success of Tesla and the subsequent focus on EVs redirected the industry’s attention.

Despite advancements by Toyota, Hyundai, Kia, and Honda, hydrogen still faces infrastructure challenges compared to EV recharging networks. According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Climate Portal, the carbon neutrality of hydrogen heavily relies on its production process.