Will Japan Miss The Electric Train
- Written by : Ashton G. Curran
- Date Published : 2023-04-07
- Date Updated : 2023-04-07
- Category / Tag : articles
Along with a lack of charging infrastructure, with current state aid failing to deliver substantial change.
However, a new generation of EVs is emerging in the country's popular and affordable kei car segment, and the government is responding by investing in subsidies and public charging stations.
Japan is aiming for 100% electrified car sales by 2035, including hybrids, but there are concerns that without more significant progress towards electrification, Japanese automakers could disappear in the long term.
In 2022, Japan saw 59,000 new EV sales, almost tripling the previous year's figures.
Despite this growth, it represents only 1.7% of the national market, with China seeing 20% of car sales being electric last year, Western Europe at around 15%, and the United States at 5.3%, according to a recent study by PwC.
This lag comes as a surprise, given Japan's reputation as an electric pioneer, with the Mitsubishi i-MiEV and Nissan Leaf released in 2009 and 2010, respectively.
However, these models failed to sell well due to their high cost, resulting in high selling prices.
Electric vehicles have long been viewed with skepticism by the Japanese automotive industry due to their high cost and the costly creation of a vast network of charging stations.
Japan initially bet on hydrogen vehicles, but this segment is now developing much less quickly than electric.
The country is home to the world's largest hybrid market, with Toyota leading the way with 42% of national sales.
However, Kuniharu Tanabe, an automotive strategy manager at the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, argues that "electric must be the priority" because the advent of its reign is inevitable in the long term with global warming.
The progress of electric vehicles abroad was first perceived as a distant phenomenon, as more than 90% of the Japanese automobile market is dominated by local manufacturers.
Most people in Japan "want to buy Japanese cars" because they are used to them, according to Atsushi Ikeda, founder and vice president of a Japanese Tesla car owners club.
State aid exists to encourage the purchase of electric vehicles, but "the charging infrastructure is too limited," for lack of sufficient investment so far and "heavy" regulation, notes Atsushi Ikeda, who has been driving a Tesla since 2016.
Japan's reliance on hybrids as an "excellent safety net" for Japanese manufacturers in the face of the many risks associated with a 100% electric strategy is beginning to change.
Japanese manufacturers are announcing colossal investment plans in electricity in response to increasingly stringent environmental regulations in their key markets abroad.
Additionally, the success of last year's launch in Japan of the Sakura, a new electric model from Nissan in the specific, popular, and inexpensive local kei car segment, has been better than expected.
This model alone represented more than a third of electric sales in the archipelago in 2022.
Electric kei cars are well-suited to provide small daily trips, as "motorists in Japan on average take shorter journeys than in the United States or Europe," according to Nobuhide Yanagi, marketing manager for electric vehicles from Nissan in Japan.
Japan is strengthening its support measures for the electrical segment