Back in 1997 Toyota released a car called the Prius. You might have heard of it. The little four-door saloon didn’t look like anything special, in fact it looked really quite tedious, but it was a Very Important Thing – the world’s first mass-produced hybrid car.
It was successful. Its successor was successful, and so was its successor’s successor’s successor. Just how, ahem, successful? It took Toyota 12 years, until August 2009, to sell 2 million hybrids. By March 2013 it’d ‘only’ shifted 5 million. The 10 million-mark was reached in 2017. As of January this year, though, Toyota has sold 15 MILLION hybrids. That’s… a lot.
The company’s hybrid tech is principally the same today as it was in 1997, though of course the system has been refined and developed over the years. And fitted to more and more cars, from family hatchbacks to luxury SUVs, sports cars like the Lexus LC to limousines.
More than 2.8 million of those 15 million hybrids live in Europe. Last year, 52 per cent of Toyotas and Lexus sold here were hybrids, or 63 per cent in Western Europe. Handy, given the EU’s emissions regulations are among the tightest in the world.
STORY Tom Harrison