Back to the future: Toyota sets sights on old-car upgrades in zero-emissions drive

Toyota Motor Corporation President Akio Toyoda and Toyota's Gazoo Racing Company President Koji Sato attend an event for Toyota GAZOO Racing and LEXUS at Tokyo Auto Salon 2023 at Makuhari Messe in Chiba, east of Tokyo, Japan, on Jan 13, 2023.
PHOTO: Reuters

CHIBA, Japan - In an eye-catching bid to show that cars can be clean while appealing to old-school petrolheads, Toyota Motor on Friday (Jan 13) showcased zero-emission versions of its 1980s sports range, which still boasts a strong global fan base.

At an industry event for customised cars in Chiba, east of Tokyo, the Japanese automaker unveiled two cars of the AE86 generation, one modified as a battery-electric vehicle and the other as a hydrogen-engine model.

Toyota President Akio Toyoda said remodelling existing cars needed to be explored as an option to achieve a goal of zero carbon emissions by 2050. In Japan, only one in about 20 cars on the road are new, and older ones are mainly powered at least partly by gasoline.

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"It's important to leave a choice for cars that are already loved or owned by someone," Toyoda, a self-confessed car-lover and race-car driver, said at the event.

A relative newcomer to the mass EV market, Toyota has plans to invest $70 billion to electrify its vehicles and produce more batteries, and aims to sell at least 3.5 million battery electric models (BEVs) in 2030.