Toyota Australia (TMCA) is aiming for one-in-five of all vehicles it sells to be fuel-saving petrol-electric hybrid cars, within a time frame of just two years.
Based on current sales volumes, this equates to about 42,000 sales of Toyota hybrid cars in 2020, figures that seemed scarcely plausible even a few years ago given Australia’s slow take-up of environmentally friendly cars.
Strip out commercial vehicles like the HiLux and HiAce (mostly diesel), and the figures show more than one-third of Toyota passenger cars and SUVs will be hybrid within this timeframe – if the company meets its target.
For context, the company claims about 40 per cent of the Camrys it sold last year were hybrids, and backorders suggest this will only grow in 2019. Moreover, about 20 per cent of new Corolla hatches sold are expected to be petrol-electric.
Increased economies of scale and the maturity of the technology (Toyota still largely sticks with cheaper nickel-metal hydride battery arrays) means cost premiums over a conventional car are much lower. Moreover, diesel passenger cars are clearly on the nose more than previous years.
“We aspire to get to 20 per cent [hybrid mix] by 2020,” said TMCA’s VP of sales and marketing Sean Hanley. “The launch of Camry, and recent launch of the Corolla, are certainly indicating we’re on target.”
“Clearly what we’re seeing is the consideration of hybrids is higher than it was five years ago… clearly consumers are gravitating towards the idea of hybrid and other technology, it’s the way of the future and Toyota is very well positioned."
Toyota will be selling at least 10 separate hybrid models by the end of 2020.
It currently offers said Camry and Corolla, plus the almost forgotten (soon-to-be-updated) Prius, the Prius C and the Prius V. This year will bring the new RAV4 hybrid SUV expected to account for about 20 per cent that model’s sales, plus the hybrid Corolla sedan.
Other models available with a hybrid drivetrain elsewhere include the Kluger and C-HR. It’s almost certain the next-generation Kluger will get a hybrid, while the C-HR could well pick up the option as part of a mid-cycle upgrade due next year.
Beyond this, we know TMCA isn’t keen on plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) like the overseas Prius Prime yet. Unlike ‘self-charging’ hybrid cars, PHEVs have a larger battery pack that can be charged from a power socket, giving them a much, much longer pure electric driving range.
“People want the normality of a normal hybrid" instead of a plug-in power,” Hanley said recently.
In terms of pure electric cars, Toyota last year created a new division responsible for electric and fuel-cell vehicle development, dubbed the ZEV Factory, to help speed the development of electric vehicles. The new division is built around a 50-strong planning team and about 200 engineers.
Clearly though, the likes of Nissan and Hyundai are beating Toyota to the punch with affordable EVs like the Leaf and Kona, due this year.
Beyond BEVs, TMCA last year announced a hydrogen trial in partnership with the Hobson's Bay City Council. It's reliant on a hydrogen truck parked in Altona (Melbourne) at the moment, given the current lack of infrastructure, but the findings will inform Toyota on what's required to make hydrogen fleets work.
The market leader topped the charts again in 2018 with 217,061 sales and achieved almost double the market share of its nearest competitor, Mazda. It topped eight segments, and the HiLux was the market’s overall number one, yet again.