Petrol-electric Camry, Corolla and RAV4 to take hybrids mainstream here, after years of toil.

After more than a decade in the trenches, Toyota Australia is getting cut-through with its hybrid cars, which run on petrol power but use a small battery and electric motor to reduce fuel consumption.

The company launched the niche, first-generation Prius in 2001. Though it was narrowly beaten to launch by Honda and its Insight, the company has since been the market leader alongside its premium Lexus subsidiary.

Since the new Camry sedan arrived at the end of 2017, about 40 per cent sold have been hybrids, well above projections. This equates to about 3500 units overall. About 51 per cent of all back orders are for the hybrid, so the take-up is only growing.

Furthermore, a substantial number of these have been private sales, alongside the expected take-up from government departments. Industry sales figures show private buyers have purchased nearly as many hybrid passenger cars as diesel ones this year.

Now it’s the smaller Corolla’s turn. The new-generation version arriving this week is expected to remain Australia’s most popular passenger car, and about one-in-five are projected to be hybrids, helped by a continued marketing push.

This would equate to at least 6000 sales next year, erring on the side of conservatism.

Unlike the outgoing model with one hybrid grade, all three Corolla variants can now be had with a petrol-electric drivetrain that uses a claimed 4.2L/100km, but costs $1500 more than the regular petrol.

“You can be sure we will accelerate both the availability and marketing of this core technology of the 21st century,” Toyota Australia vice-president of national operations, Sean Hanley said this week.

“We have a responsibly to take a stand and we are doing that with our hybrid model offensive. In the next 30 months we will have 5 new hybrid models available,” he added.

One of these will be the new RAV4 SUV due in early 2019, while the other derivatives on offer could include a Kluger hybrid to tackle diesel rivals – in fuel economy runs, not towing.

Hanley stated Toyota’s 11.5 million hybrid sales globally so far (10 per cent of this was racked-up in 2017) has reduced its fleet CO2 emissions by about 90,000 tonnes.

One question, though, is where this leaves the Prius, which was once a tech leader but which is now just a quirky-looking car with relatively mainstream drivetrain tech.

One answer would be to offer the Prius Prime PHEV sold elsewhere, but Hanley said this isn't on the cards in the current generation. The change will have to come though.

Toyota has pledged worldwide to cut its emissions by 90 per cent by 2050, and wants to sell 5.5 million electrified cars (hybrid, EV and fuel-cell) annually by 2030. Development has also started on a next generation sports car with hybrid tech.

Of course, the company also sells thousands of V8 diesel LandCruisers here every year…