Mazda is one of the few major automakers that currently makes no plug-in vehicles, although it has indicated that it would offer an EV in 2019 to meet ZEV regulations. A Mazda exec defended the company’s status-quo strategy at a recent Michigan trade group convention, saying that the “impending death of the internal combustion engine is overrated.”
“Take the $7,500 EV credit off the table,” suggested Robert Davis, Senior VP in charge of Special Assignments for North America. “At the same time, you take the EV mandate off the table. Let the government keep the $7,500 and let the industry find the best way to meet the clean air standard. Make it CO2, make it grams per mile, fuel economy – whatever feels best, but don’t mandate the particular powertrain.”
Davis went on to list his objections to EVs, some of which rested on dubious factual ground. As Electrek put it, “his comments read like a summary of Koch misinformation campaign talking points.”
His assertion that the auto industry could find the best way to meet clean air standards on its own rings hollow in light of the industry’s continued efforts to have those standards watered down, both in the US and in China.
Davis claimed that EV batteries cannot be easily recycled. Electrek points out that lead-acid batteries, which are extremely dangerous if not disposed of properly, are currently recycled at a rate of over 99%. Lithium-ion batteries, on the other hand, are generally not considered hazardous waste, and most of the elements within are considered safe for incinerators and landfills. Furthermore, programs to recycle them are already being developed by Nissan, Tesla and other EV-makers.
Speaking of recycling, Davis also trotted out the tired old “long tailpipe” argument (“We need to consider that this is not zero emissions. This is remote emissions, or displaced emissions.”), which has been discredited by study after study after study after study.
Since Davis made his comments, Nikkei Asian Review reported that Toyota and Mazda were planning a capital partnership deal that would “possibly” include “joint development of key electric vehicle technologies.” According to Nikkei, Mazda plans to launch an unspecified electrified vehicle in 2019. No other details were provided.
The Toyota/Mazda deal may also include a joint venture to build a new plant in the American South that would produce up to 300,000 (gas-powered) SUVs per year. Whatever the companies’ EV plans may be, it’s plain that they don’t see their main profit center changing any time soon.
“The internal combustion engine has a strong future role in transportation,” Davis said.