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Climate Change

Toyota speeds up carbon-zero target for factories to 2035

Goal pushed forward 15 years as industry prioritizes decarbonization

Toyota looks to reduce carbon emissions at its assembly plants and throughout its supply chain. (Photo courtesy of Toyota)

NAGOYA, Japan -- Toyota Motor has moved up its target year for attaining net-zero carbon emissions among group factories to 2035 from the previous deadline of 2050, the company said Friday.

The Japanese automaker will achieve this goal by adopting new technology in coating and casting processes, it said. The company will also step up its use of renewable energy.

"Achieving carbon neutrality through production processes will come to be the natural approach," Masamichi Okada, Toyota's chief production officer, told reporters in an online briefing Friday.

Okada said Toyota's plant automation will increasingly take its inspiration from an old technology called karakuri. The concept was used to put mechanical dolls in motion with weights and gears. Now karakuri will be tapped to move equipment without consuming power.

The presentation showed a simple karakuri-based conveyance system that dropped off material at a production line.

"It is an example of an ultimate carbon-neutral piece of equipment," Okada said.

Toyota will also purchase carbon credits from other companies.

Including group companies, Toyota factories emitted 5.68 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2019. However, Toyota plants account for just 2% of carbon footprint attributable to the entire life cycle of the automobiles, including raw material procurement, production, vehicle operation and disposal.

Given the situation, cutting carbon emissions within the entire supply chain, and not just at factories or through vehicle electrification, has become a pressing issue.

Toyota plans to sell 8 million electrified vehicles by the end of the decade, or nearly quadruple the current volume. By midcentury, the automaker aims to cut average carbon emissions by new vehicles globally by 90% compared with 2010.

The supply chain is making headway in decarbonization as well. Toyota has asked first-level suppliers of critical parts to cut carbon dioxide emissions this year by 3% compared with 2020. Outside of Japan, Germany's Daimler plans to achieve carbon neutrality for its entire supply chain in 2039.

Looking at the global automotive landscape, the makers of luxury vehicles are taking the lead in cutting carbon.

Volkswagen seeks to halve the per-unit carbon emissions by vehicles under its eponymous brand by 2025 compared to 2015. The German automaker will have nearly all its European plants source the entirely of their electricity from renewable energy by 2023.

Volkswagen will apply that standard to all factories worldwide, excluding China, by 2030. For the Volkswagen brand, two factories have already attained net-zero emissions. Group company Porsche has achieved carbon neutrality in German plants.

BMW seeks to achieve net-zero carbon emissions at every plant under its umbrella this year. Per unit carbon dioxide emission during production will be reduced by 80% by the end of the decade compared with 2019. Mercedes-Benz plans to achieve net-zero emissions at global factories by next year.

Among Japanese companies, Nissan Motor will pursue carbon neutrality at all business activities, including factories, by the year 2050. The automaker has yet to disclose goals for each operational fields, such as production.

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