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Since the introduction of the Prius in the late 1990s, Toyota has become one of the best-known makers of hybrid vehicles. And now, just over two decades since the first cars went on sale, the company is celebrating 15 million hybrid sales worldwide.

Of those sales, almost a fifth (2.8 million) have been in Europe, where the U.K. is one of the leading markets for Toyota’s hybrid vehicles. As of the end of March this year, the company had shifted more than 356,000 units on these shores. At present, hybrids account for two-thirds (66.1 percent) of all Toyota’s new passenger vehicle sales in the U.K.

In Britain, the Yaris has recently become the brand’s best-selling hybrid model, overtaking the Prius in terms of total sales over the winter. And Toyota says the car’s position is set to be cemented with the arrival of the all-new Yaris this year. Equipped with Toyota’s latest, fourth-generation hybrid electric system, the company claims the new model will deliver “significantly” greater zero-emission electric driving capability.

The decision to make hybrid vehicles was only made 25 years ago, when Takeshi Uchiyamada’s team was tasked with developing a less polluting car for the 21st century. The Prius debuted in 1997, although it only came to Europe in 2000. Now, Toyota has sold more than 15 million vehicles, and the company estimates its products have saved 120 million tonnes of CO2 emissions compared with equivalent petrol vehicles.

Announcing the news, Toyota said: “In Europe, the U.K. is one of the strongest markets for HEVs with cumulative sales of Toyota models reaching 356,630 units up to the end of March 2020. That’s been accomplished in 20 years since Prius’s turn-of-the-millennium debut here, with sales accelerating as Toyota increased the range of models available and continuously improved the performance of the technology. More choice, lower emissions and even better fuel economy have raised people’s awareness and acceptance of hybrid, moving it firmly into the mainstream.”

Toyoya says hybrids (HEVs) are a key part of the future global vehicle fleet, alongside battery-electric vehicles (BEVs), plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCEVs). In Europe, the company plans to reveal 40 new or updated electrified vehicles by 2025, including “at least 10” zero-emission vehicles, which could be either BEVs or FCEVs.

Shigeki Terashi, the chief officer of the Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC), said: “Of course, we must work hard on improving battery performance and lowering costs [of BEVs], which we are doing. But we must avoid having no plan until we overcome the hurdles related to both BEVs and FCEVs. In the meantime, we can contribute by continuing our work on HEVs.”

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Toyota passes 15 million hybrid electric vehicles global sales

  • Pioneer and leader in hybrid electric technology, Toyota has crossed the symbolic milestone of 15 million hybrid vehicles sold since the 1997 launch of the iconic Prius, the first full hybrid mass-produced car
  • Now offered on 44 individual models across a wide range of size and body types, Toyota's hybrid electric technology has reduced CO2 emissions by more than 120 million tonnes worldwide
  • In Europe, the company has sold over 2.8M hybrid cars, allowing it to be a leading automaker towards EU CO2 reduction targets in 2020 and 2021
  • Excellent at reducing CO2 emissions, Toyota’s hybrid technology also allows drivers to cover more than 50% of their journeys in and around the city in zero emission mode, offering an affordable way to improve air quality in urban centres

In January 2020, Toyota passed the milestone of more than 15 million hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) sales worldwide since the Prius was first launched in 1997. Today in Europe, sales of HEVs have passed the 2.8M mark with a range of 19 different HEV models on offer across the Toyota and Lexus brands, which in 2019 accounted for 52% of total volume, and 63% in West Europe.

The range of available hybrid electric vehicles at the global level from Toyota and Lexus now reaches 44, far eclipsing the original flag-bearer that remains the symbol of the company’s early and visionary foray into mass electrification.

Toyota’s decision to develop hybrid electric vehicles started over 25 years ago when Takeshi Uchiyamada led a team to develop a car for the 21st century, one which would reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other harmful pollutants. The first-generation Prius was launched in 1997 around the time of the Kyoto Protocol signing, which gave new momentum to the environmental movement. Today, 15 million hybrid sales later, Toyota has made a significant contribution to the environment as its hybrid electric technology has reduced CO2 emissions by more than 120 million tonnes worldwide to date compared to sales of equivalent petrol vehicles.

The company’s original vision has allowed Toyota to be the leader in meeting increasingly stringent emissions regulations around the world.

It is thanks to our hybrid sales that Toyota is well on its way to meeting the 95g/km target set by the EU for 2020 and 2021 in Europe, where CO2 regulations are the toughest in the world. In addition, our full hybrids are also incredibly effective at running without emissions for the majority of the time in cities.
Matt Harrison, Executive Vice President of Toyota Motor Europe

Across this period, Toyota has seen demand for its hybrid electric vehicles soar as the company has combined this innovative technology with emotional design enabled by the roll-out of its TNGA global platforms. Beyond the current 4th generation hybrid system, Toyota is continuing to refine its hybrid technology to achieve even lower emissions and ever-better fuel efficiency. Today, hybrid electric vehicles are affordable, accessible and convenient for customers across a broad spread of European markets.

Hybrid naturally leads to BEV and FCEV

While Toyota believes that HEVs are an essential part of the future overall mix of electrified vehicles, two decades of electrification experience also feed into the company’s mutli-powertrain strategy. The company provides and will continue to provide various types of electrified vehicles to reduce emissions based on regulations, market infrastructure and ultimately customer demand. Toyota does not see a one ‘winner takes all’ scenario but a future where the different electrified technologies, including hybrids and plug-ins (PHEV), fuel cell (FCEV) and battery electric (BEV) vehicles, all play a part.

Of course, we must work hard on improving battery performance and lowering costs (of BEVs), which we are doing. But we must avoid having no plan until we overcome the hurdles related to both BEVs and FCEVs. In the meantime, we can contribute by continuing our work on HEVs.
Shigeki Terashi, Chief Officer of Toyota Motor Corporation

As a result of its long hybrid electric vehicle experience, the company has deep transferable expertise in the core electrification technologies which are common across all form of electrified powertrains, putting them in pole position for an electrified future. Over two decades of continuous development of electric motors, batteries and power control units has taught Toyota how to manage and reuse energy efficiently, providing a range of electrified options for Toyota and Lexus customers through HEVs, PHEVs, BEVs and FCEVs.

To realise this vision in Europe, Toyota is planning to launch 40 new or updated electrified vehicles by 2025, across all technologies, including at least 10 ZEVs. Its hybrid electric vehicles will remain a core part of the powertrain mix meeting customers’ needs and helping drive down emissions together with other types of electrified vehicles. That has been the company’s goal ever since it launched the first Prius over 20 years ago, with the ultimate ambition to achieve zero emissions in a widespread and sustainable way.

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