Photo/IllutrationHiroshige Seko, minister of economy, trade and industry, speaks at a meeting aimed at improving the competitiveness of the auto industry on July 24. (Sho Hatsumi)

The government has set an ambitious goal of making all Japanese vehicles sold around the world at least partly powered by electricity by 2050 to keep domestic makers competitive in an industry fast shifting to electric.

The goal, presented at an industry ministry panel on July 24, means that Japanese vehicles will all be "electrified vehicles," which include electric vehicles, fuel-cell vehicles, gas-electric hybrids and plug-in hybrids.

No new Japanese vehicles will run solely on gasoline by the target year.

“It is a goal that can only be set by Japan, a country that boasts the world's top-level auto industry,” Hiroshige Seko, minister of economy, trade and industry, told the panel meeting. "It will send a message that will have a great impact on the global market."

The government goal was included in an intermediate plan the industry ministry presented at the meeting, which brought together government and industry representatives to improve the competitiveness of the auto industry.

The participants reached a consensus that the public and private sectors need to establish a long-term goal to maintain the environmental performance of Japanese vehicles at one of the highest levels in the world.

In light of the Paris Agreement, an international treaty on climate change, the plan stated Japan will reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses in vehicle emissions by about 80 percent per vehicle by 2050. The figure means a 90 percent reduction for passenger cars.

To achieve that goal, the panel decided to shift all Japanese vehicles sold in the world to be electrified vehicles by 2050.

The move reflects Japan’s fears about lagging behind other countries as major auto markets, from the United States and China to Britain and France, shift from gasoline to electric vehicles.

Under the new strategy, the government plans to offer subsidies to accelerate private-sector development of batteries and motors for electricity-powered vehicles. It will also help automakers secure stable supplies of rare metals, the essential materials of batteries.

Japanese manufactures’ stance varies on electric vehicles.

Toyota Motor Corp., which has taken the lead in gas-electric hybrids, remains skeptical about the rapid spread of electric vehicles.

Nissan Motor Co. welcomes the accelerated shift toward electric vehicles because the company rolled out EVs in 2010.

Mazda Motor Corp. and Subaru Corp., which have long focused on improving gasoline engine technologies, will be forced to review their strategies.

(This article was compiled from reports by Satoshi Kubo, Katsunori Takahashi and Sho Hatsumi.)