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Climate Change

Japan aims to electrify nation's new car fleet by mid-2030s

Nation shifts to hybrids and EVs as it shoots for zero emissions by 2050

Traffic in Tokyo: Japan wants to accomplish a significant reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles. (Photo by Kento Awashima)

TOKYO -- Japan will endeavor to make all new car sales eco-friendly by the mid-2030s as it joins a growing community of nations determined to slow the globe's carbon emissions, Nikkei has learned.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is considering a goal of abolishing new sales of conventional cars, those powered solely by internal combustion engines, and shifting to hybrid cars and electric cars from the mid-2030s.

The target would be part of a more difficult goal the government has already set -- becoming a zero-emissions society by 2050.

The government intends for the nation to take a crucial step toward that ideal by mandating electrified vehicles and thus reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

It will announce the policy after holding a conference in which experts and car industry executives will participate; the conference will be held this month. Later, it will sort out concrete measures for the transition to more hybrid and electric vehicles.

In 2018, vehicles accounted for 16% of Japan's total emissions. Emissions from planes, ships and trains combined accounted for 3% or less.

The Energy Conservation Act regulates the fuel efficiency of vehicles.

Japan currently is obligating carmakers to improve efficiency by 30% by the end of fiscal 2030. However, the government now appears to believe a more stringent step is necessary if the country is to meet its zero-emissions goal.

Many territories say they plan to ban new sales of gasoline-powered cars beginning in 2030 and instead promote those of electric cars.

The U.K. will ban new sales of gasoline- and diesel-fueled cars by 2030, then hybrid cars by 2035. The U.S. state of California will ban sales of new gasoline cars by 2035. France will take a similar measure by 2040.

China is considering whether to mandate that eco-friendly vehicles make up all new car sales as early as 2035, with the goal that fully electric vehicles make up 50% of sales and hybrids accounting for the other half.

In Japan, where automakers like Toyota Motors have made advanced hybrid systems pillars of their new-energy strategies, hybrids will be considered eco-friendly, and the government will not ban their sales.

This approach differs from that of the U.K., where new hybrid sales are scheduled for that 2035 graveyard.

To promote the shift from gasoline cars to electric and hybrid vehicles, lowering the price of lithium-ion batteries will be crucial. To this end, the government is considering tax breaks for companies that invest in production facilities for new batteries that can contribute to the zero-emissions target.

Japanese carmakers are accelerating the shift to alternative-energy cars.

Toyota plans to offer an electrified option for all models by 2025. It sells a wide range of such vehicles -- hybrids, plug-in hybrids and fuel cell cars. It aims to sell 5.5 million electrified vehicles globally by 2025.

The storied automaker in 2020 will begin selling more than 10 electrified vehicle models. These models last year accounted for 40% of all Toyota and Lexus car sales in Japan.

Nissan Motor is aiming to raise the ratio of hybrid and electric car sales from 30% of all domestic sales to 60% by 2023. The new Note compact, which hits showrooms this month, will be available only as a hybrid. Honda Motor, meanwhile, is aiming to make two-thirds of all four-wheeled vehicle sales electrified. It began selling its first mass-produced electric vehicle, the Honda e, this year.

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