It seems hard to believe now, but hybrid cars were once a niche thing. They were actually considered unusual. In fact, at one point, there were no hybrid cars, there was just a hybrid car – singular: the Toyota Prius. How things have changed since then.
As of this month, Toyota now sells 19 different hybrid passenger car models and one plug-in hybrid model in approximately 80 countries and regions around the world.
Between now and the end of 2015, the Japanese company will launch a total of 18 new hybrid models worldwide, including one fuel cell vehicle.
Toyota calculates that as of 31 March 2013, its hybrid vehicles have resulted in approximately 34 million fewer tonnes of CO2 emissions – widely believed to be a cause of global warming – than would have been emitted by petrol-powered vehicles of similar size and driving performance. It also estimates that its hybrid vehicles have saved approximately 1.2 billion liters of fuel compared to the amount used by petrol-powered vehicles of similar size.
In 1997 in Japan, Toyota launched the Coaster Hybrid EV in August and launched the Prius – the world’s first mass-produced hybrid passenger vehicle – in December. Since then, hybrid vehicles have been tremendously well received by consumers around the world.
“We developed the first-generation Prius with the aim of making it a car for the twenty-first century and as an indication of Toyota’s response to environmental issues. We had to develop a hybrid system from scratch, making our task extremely difficult. Nevertheless, we took on the challenge. The launch of the first-generation Prius had effects beyond our expectations, with the vehicle increasing consumer environmental awareness and raising hybrid vehicle expectations. The understanding of consumers at launch time laid the foundation for the widespread adoption, and, since then, consumers have continued to support our hybrid vehicles. For this, I am extremely grateful,” Toyota Vice-Chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada, who was responsible for development of the first-generation Prius, said.
Since the European introduction of the first generation Prius in 2000, Toyota and Lexus have sold 544,184 hybrid vehicles in Europe by the end March 2013, more than ten per cent of total global hybrid sales.
Hybrid vehicles have now reached a tipping point in Europe with a clear stepping up of hybrid sales since 2010. It took around seven years to reach the first 100,000 hybrid sales in Europe, but in 2012 alone, Toyota Motor Europe sold 109,478 hybrid vehicles.
The European line-up currently includes six Toyota and six Lexus full hybrid vehicles. In the first quarter of 2013, sales of Toyota and Lexus hybrid vehicles in Europe increased by 82 per cent year-on-year. Toyota and Lexus hybrid models now constitute 21 per cent of European sales.
Hybrid vehicle customers benefit from a reduced cost of ownership. Toyota’s full hybrid technology also plays an important role in improving air quality by emitting less NOx and no particulate matters compared to diesel vehicles.