Not enough resources for EVs to be only cleaner car option, Toyota says

FILE PHOTO: Toyota cars are seen after a briefing on battery EV strategy in Tokyo

TOKYO (Reuters) - A lack of resources means battery electric vehicles (BEV) cannot be the auto sector's only answer to climate change, Toyota Motor Corp's top scientist said Thursday, warning that focusing on BEVs could lead some drivers to hold onto polluting vehicles.

Some investors and environmental groups have long criticised Toyota for being slow to embrace BEVs, saying it has lagged Tesla Inc and others amid growing global demand.

The world's top automaker by sales has countered that BEVs are just one option and that gasoline-electric hybrids, such as its pioneering Prius, are a more realistic choice for some markets and drivers.

Gill Pratt, chief executive of the Toyota Research Institute, told reporters that BEVs could make a positive difference in reducing climate change in countries such as Norway, which has a lot of renewable infrastructure.

But in other parts of the world, where coal is still used to produce power, hybrids were better for CO2 emissions, he added.

"Battery materials and renewable charging infrastructure will eventually be plentiful," Pratt said in Hiroshima, a day before the start of a Group of Seven leaders summit in the Japanese city.

"But it's going to take decades for battery material mines, renewable power generation, transmission lines and seasonal energy-storage facilities to scale up."

Toyota, which seeks to sell 1.5 million battery-powered cars by 2026 and introduce 10 new fully electric models, has frequently argued that reaching carbon neutrality will mean the use of hybrid and fuel-cell vehicles.

Reuters reported last year how Toyota's former chief executive, Akio Toyoda, lobbied the Japanese government to make clear it supported hybrid vehicles as much as BEVs or risk losing the auto industry's support.

BEVs are "one very important option" for achieving carbon neutrality and hydrogen is as well, Toyoda, who currently is chairman of Toyota, told reporters earlier on Thursday.

(Reporting by Daniel Leussink; Editing by Mark Potter)