A Japanese automaker was the first to produce a mass-market, all-electric car: the Nissan Leaf.
Just over a decade later, such cars make up only 3 percent of global sales, with buyers balking at their price, limited range and charging times.
That makes it hard for carmakers to turn a profit on them.
As a result the Japanese car industry has neglected electric cars while dominating the global market for gasoline-electric hybrids.
Automakers around the world are making bold pledges to transition to electric fleets, and national governments are issuing mandates to increase electric-car sales or to ban gasoline-burning vehicles. Japan’s auto industry could be left behind.
Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota and chairman of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association, has accused the Japanese news media of inflating the commercial and environmental value of all-electric vehicles.
His company, which is the worldwide leader in hybrid car sales, sets the tone for the industry. Toyota is also heavily invested in clean-burning hydrogen, a technology that has yet to go mainstream.