Companies such as Volkswagen, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Hyundai and Mitsubishi are pushing for a world where electric power can be used part-time, offering plug-in hybrid drivetrains in mainstream models in major markets around the world.
Indeed, Mitsubishi offers the most affordable plug-in hybrid in Australia, the Outlander PHEV (from $47,490 plus on-road costs – currently $44,990 drive-away in run-out).
Toyota has previously offered a plug-in version of its Prius hybrid – though not in Australia – and there are no apparent plans for a production plug-in version of the new-generation Prius at this point.
Toyota Australia executive director of sales and marketing Tony Cramb said that Toyota’s strength with standard hybrid models has shown that plug-in powertrains aren’t necessarily needed.
“I think the whole concept of hybrid and the direction where all these other vehicles are going is in search of the final solution,” he said.
“Whether we are the only hybrid – there needs to be more and more, and that’s great to see competitors coming in with hybrids – but still in Australia we dominate the sale of hybrids,” Cramb said.
“There may be other offerings, but those other offerings aren’t actually achieving success,” he said, obviously a thinly veiled swipe at the Outlander PHEV which hasn’t seen a great amount of traction in the local market.
“Through our learning – we’ve sold more than eight million hybrids worldwide – we understand the benefit of that technology, and we’re learning quicker than anybody else, and that’s helping us to develop things like the fuel cell,” he said of the Mirai fuel-cell EV model.
“It’s that experience, it’s not about sales volume, or what you’ve got on the market today, it’s about what you’re learning when you’re introducing those options around the world. And plug-in hybrids is potentially one of those answers, but once again it’s got to be commercial,” he said.
Toyota's luxury arm Lexus has also played down the push to plug-in hybrids, stating there was no plan for such drivetrains in its model range.