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Toyota commits $70 billion to electrification but hesitant about battery-powered future

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TOKYO (Reuters) -Toyota Motor Corp on Tuesday committed 8 trillion yen ($70 billion) to electrify its automobiles by 2030, half of it to develop a battery electric vehicle (BEV) line-up, as it looks to tap a growing market for zero-emission cars.

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But the world’s biggest carmaker, which is a relative latecomer to full electric cars, said it expected annual BEVs sales to reach only 3.5 million vehicles by the end of the decade, or around a third of its current vehicle sales.

That is less than bigger rivals such as Europe’s No. 1 carmaker Volkswagen, which in July predicted that half of its global vehicle sales will be battery-powered cars by that date.

It comes as traditional automobile firms increasingly take on Tesla Inc, which has become the most valuable carmaker this year. Tesla’s market value reached over $1 trillion in October, surpassing the combined value of Toyota, VW, Daimler AG, Ford Motor and General Motors Co.

Speaking at a press conference in Tokyo surrounded by more than a dozen planned BEV models, Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda said his company was still pursuing a multi-pronged, carbon-reduction strategy that also includes hybrid cars and hydrogen-powered vehicles.

“We want to leave all people with a choice, and rather than where or what we will focus on, we will wait a little longer until we understand where the market is going,” Toyoda said.

His company’s plan to introduce a full line-up of 30 BEV’s by 2030 goes beyond the 15 models Toyota earlier said it would have available by 2025. The Japanese carmaker on Tuesday also said it planned to invest 2 trillion yen in battery production by 2030, up from the 1.5 trillion yen it announced earlier.

That investment includes $1.29 billion for a new battery plant in North Carolina that will begin production in 2025.

EVs still only account for a small portion of car sales, but the market is growing rapidly, with new registrations up 41% in 2020 even as the global car market contracted by a sixth that year.

In November, Toyota declined to join a pledge signed by six major carmakers, including GM and Ford to phase out fossil fuel cars by 2040. It argued that not all parts of the world would be ready to transition to green cars by then.

In addition to electrified cars, Toyota is also developing internal combustion engines that run on hydrogen fuel. Toyoda said the technology could help to save some of Japan’s 5.5 million auto jobs by allowing the car company to keep supply chains that would disappear with a full shift to electric cars.

($1 = 113.6900 yen)

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