How many hybrids do you think Toyota has sold since the original Prius made its debut back in 1997? As of the end of March the worldwide figure is five million – and still rising fast.
Perhaps more significant than the simple number – huge though it is – is the impact on the environment of putting so many hybrids on the road.
Toyota has done some number crunching and calculated that around 34 million tonnes less CO2 has been pumped into the atmosphere, compared to the impact of the same number of petrol-powered vehicles of similar size and performance.
In terms of fuel, it estimates on the same basis that 12 billion litres of petrol have been saved.
To achieve the same impact on greenhouse gas emissions it reckons you would need to plant a forest of trees greater than the size of Cuba – around 110,000sqkm.
Prius has gone on to become one of the world’s best-selling cars and it’s among 20 different Toyota, Lexus and other Toyota-owned brand hybrids that are currently available in around 80 different countries and regions.
That’s not the end of the story: within the next two years Toyota will be introducing 18 new hybrids and a zero-emissions fuel cell car as it continues to put hybrid technology at the heart of its programme for sustainable transport. That’s no surprise – as we reported last week, hybrids now account for 20 per cent of Toyota sales in Europe.
Takeshi Uchiyamada, Toyota Motor Corporation Vice-Chairman and the man who led development of the original Prius, said: “We developed the first-generation Prius with the aim of making it a car for the 21st 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. The launch of the first-generation Prius had effects beyond our expectations, with the vehicle increasing consumer environmental awareness and raising hybrid vehicle expectations.”
Here in the UK we’re not just buying more hybrids, we’re building them too. Toyota’s Derbyshire factory was the first in Europe to build a hybrid model and will soon be adding the Auris Touring Sports Hybrid family estate to the line-up, alongside the hatchback version introduced last year.
Toyota’s hybrid sales in the UK and Europe began in 2000 and have accounted for around 10 per cent of the cumulative total. It may have been viewed as a niche technology 13 years ago, but today customers understand and embrace hybrid as a mainstream alternative to petrol and diesel.
This is reflected in the way sales have accelerated. In Europe it took seven years for the 100,000 vehicles to be sold, while in 2012 alone the figure was 109,000. With an expanding range reaching more parts of the market, sales in the first quarter this year are up 82 per cent on the same period in 2012.
In the UK the rolling total will be passing 100,000 soon, helped by the growing range which currently numbers nine Toyota and Lexus models, from the Yaris Hybrid supermini to the LS 600h limousine. And as well as Auris Hybrid Touring Sports the line-up will extend to include Lexus’s IS 300h luxury sports saloon this summer.
Customers who choose hybrid enjoy lower cost of ownership and attractive tax benefits. As well as reducing CO2 emissions, the hybrid system plays an important part in improving air quality by emitting less NOx and particulate matter than diesel vehicles.
Toyota Hybrid Vehicle Sales* (Unit = 1,000 vehicles)
|*Based on TMC data|