EXCLUSIVE Japan emphasised hybrids in policy document after lawmaker cited lobbying from Toyota head

Exclusive: Japan emphasised hybrids in policy document after lawmaker cited lobbying from Toyota head.

EXCLUSIVE Japan, hybrids, policy document, lawmaker

TOKYO, June 24 (Reuters) - Japan changed a key policy document to show its support for hybrids was on par with battery-electric vehicles after a lawmaker cited the head of Toyota saying automakers couldnt back a government that rejected the technology popularised by the Prius, according to notes from a ruling party meeting.

The wording changes, which included adding a reference to "so-called electric-powered vehicles", appear to put fossil-fuel burning hybrids on equal footing with zero-emission battery vehicles, even though environmentalists say there is a vast difference.

Japans auto industry, particularly Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T), has come under pressure from environmentalists and green investors who say it has been slow to embrace battery-electric vehicles and lobbied governments to undermine a transition to them. read more

Akira Amari, a former industry minister and a veteran member of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), requested the change to the governments annual economic policy roadmap at a June 3 meeting, saying he had spoken with Akio Toyoda a day earlier, according to the notes and audio reviewed by Reuters.

"I spoke with Chairman Toyoda yesterday and he said that JAMA cannot endorse a government that rejects hybrids," Amari told the policy meeting of LDP lawmakers, according to the notes and audio.

Use of synthetic fuel, such as from hydrogen, would make hybrids "100% clean energy" cars and the policy document should make that explicit, Amari said.

"If we dont say that hybrids are included in the category of electric vehicles, that wont look good," he said, adding that a reference to electric-powered vehicles should be changed to "so-called electric-powered vehicles".

Amari confirmed to Reuters that he asked for the inclusion of "so-called" to make clear that electric vehicles were not limited to battery-electric vehicles and included hybrids. He said he asked for no other changes.

"What Mr. Toyoda is trying to say is that hybrids running with synthetic fuels are good for the environment because they are extremely fuel efficient. He said he would be extremely unsatisfied if hybrids were rejected. Thats what he told me. He asked if the LDP were rejecting hybrids and I said that we were doing no such thing."

Amari told Reuters that by developing synthetic fuels automakers would be able to produce zero-emissions internal combustion engines. Such fuels could also be used in aircraft, which cant run on battery power, he said.

In a statement to Reuters, JAMA said the auto industry was making every effort toward its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050. Since the goal was carbon neutrality, it was important to broaden options and not be limited to specific technologies, it said.

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