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Economy

Tokyo requires electric vehicles to further trim footprint

New rules count power generation at plants as part of emissions

Japan is looking to increase the share of electric vehicles in new-car sales to 20% to 30% by 2030.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Japan will require automakers to improve fleetwide fuel economy, including electric vehicles, by roughly 30% from the fiscal 2020 target by fiscal 2030, as it seeks to account for the environmental impact of Earth-friendly autos while still promoting their use.

Electric cars so far have been calculated as having zero emissions because they do not use gasoline. The new rules will take into account the carbon dioxide emitted when generating power to run electrics, converting it into a measure of fuel efficiency, to encourage power-saving improvements.

The standards will apply to the average fuel economy of each carmaker's total sales, not individual models. The fiscal 2020 target, set in 2011, called for an average of about 20 km per liter of gasoline -- up 24.1% from the fiscal 2009 performance. Japanese automakers are expected to achieve that target ahead of schedule.

The government will use the new standards to promote adoption of next-generation vehicles. Electrics and plug-in hybrids accounted for only about 1% of new-auto sales in fiscal 2017 but could rise to between 20% and 30% in 2030. Gasoline autos are expected to fall to between 30% and 50% from the current 63%.

A draft of the new standards will be unveiled after the nation's Golden Week holidays end in early May, for adoption around summer.

Electric vehicles generally have a smaller environmental footprint than gasoline vehicles or hybrids and are believed to be a more effective way of meeting fuel economy targets. But further innovation is needed before they can become a mass-market product.

"We can't satisfy the standards with just gasoline-powered cars, so we will tap electrified cars, mostly hybrids, which are our current 'realistic' solution," a Toyota Motor executive said.

"Companies will likely be forced to move up the timeline for their targets, like the percentage of electrified cars" in sales, said Koichi Sugimoto of Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities.

The government will consider easing requirements if an automaker uses energy-saving air conditioners and other such equipment. A midterm review will be conducted to evaluate whether the new standards are appropriate.

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