Okay, that's a pretty cool idea.

Carbon Capture

Electric cars are a nice idea, but the reality of their range and battery issues keeps dragging them back to Earth.

Toyota's seizing on that reality with a wild idea, Carscoops reports: cars with built-in filters that capture carbon dioxide — the stuff that causes global warming — from the atmosphere as you drive. In other words, the promise seems to be that drivers can have it all: driving their convenient fossil fuel-powered cars while sucking up so much CO2 that their climate sins can be forgiven.

The air filters, which the company fitted into a hydrogen combustion GR Corolla's front area, even use waste heat from the engine to inject the CO2 into a disposable liquid.

But the problem is that the system currently only captures a fraction of emissions coming from these engines. Carscoops writes that the filters convert about 20 grams of CO2 during 20 laps around a track — a far cry from the thousands of grams per gallon engines emit from burning a single gallon of gasoline.

Step on the Gas

Could the system scale to make a meaningful dent in a vehicle's emissions? It's not clear. But the project is also another sure sign that Toyota remains strikingly unsold on electric vehicles.

Company officials have expressed in recent months that they think there's a ceiling to the market share of electric vehicles — estimating that they'll constitute at most around 30 percent of vehicles sold in the future.

This pessimism is borne out in actual falling sale numbers for electric vehicles, even with policy carrots in the form of tax credits and price cuts.

There's no question that electric vehicles bring new practical concerns. This past winter brought numerous reports of electric vehicles failing to hold a charge or not charge at all in freezing cold temperatures, suggesting not all locales are suited for them.

If Toyota could make gas cars genuinely green, we'd be all ears. But we'll believe it when it has the result to back that up.

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