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Toyota is viewed as the second-most sustainable automaker despite only one electric vehicle offering. The Toyota Prius has been the poster child of sustainability and fuel savings for more than two decades. It’s this small, hybrid champion that carries the reputation of sustainability for the Toyota brand, but the brand’s slow adoption of EVs leaves us wondering.

Gray 2024 Toyota bZ4X electric SUV. This is the only fully-electric vehicle from Toyota.
2024 Toyota bZ4X | Toyota

Toyota’s slow move to EVs hasn’t altered its green reputation

A recent Heatmap study shows Toyota as the second-highest automaker for perceived sustainability. This survey shows that consumers polled and ranking automakers associate the Prius with sustainability and understand that Tesla’s EV-only lineup translates to a greener future. Tesla is the only automaker to outperform Toyota in this survey.

The top ten most sustainable automotive brands from this survey are:

  1. Tesla
  2. Toyota
  3. Kia
  4. Ford
  5. Hyundai
  6. GM
  7. Volkswagen
  8. Audi
  9. BMW
  10. Genesis

Every automaker listed has the same or more fully-electric vehicles than Toyota, but the longevity of the Prius name continues to carry the day for the world’s largest automaker.

Does the Toyota bZ4X garner consideration?

Its interesting to note that several models from the listed brands were on sale in the United States before the Toyota bZ4X. Among these early EVs are:

  • Audi E-Tron lineup
  • Volkswagen ID.4
  • Kia Soul EV
  • BMW i3
  • Hyundai Kona Electric

None of these models has the same following or widespread influence as the Prius. In general, when the conversation turns to hybrid vehicles, the Toyota Prius name comes up and is often used as the standard by which all other hybrids are measured.

Toyota seems happy to wait for a better time to enter the EV market

Although the Toyota bZ4X is a fully-electric SUV, it is more of a box checker than anything else. Toyota leadership has stated on several occasions that the company will continue to focus on hybrid technology and wait to be more active in the EV world when better battery systems are developed and the charging infrastructure has improved.

Toyota: say it isn’t so

Another potential ding to Toyota’s sustainability reputation is the $180 million paid to the U.S. government in 2021. This payment was for failing to comply with Clean Air Act regulations. Most consumers wouldn’t associate Hino trucks and buses with Toyota, but the Hino brand is a division of Toyota. The company falsified engine emissions data for many years, causing the hefty fine.

Toyota moves forward with hybrids

Although much of the Heatmap report discusses the lack of Toyota-branded electric vehicles in the market, the Toyota brand has made steps forward in terms of improved fuel mileage in its larger vehicles with the hybrid powertrains included in the Tundra, Sequoia, and new Tacoma.

Toyota seems committed to its typical course of taking things slow and steady, which has served the brand well for decades.