Compared To Conventional Hybrids, Plug-In Hybrids Seen Catching On Faster: Toyota

The latest plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHVs) will catch on with consumers far more rapidly than the original Prius did, expects Toyota Motor Corp’s chairman, who led the development of the Toyota Prius.

Takeshi Uchiyamada said he expected to sell 1 million plug-in hybrids in less than 10 years, the time it took for sales of its conventional hybrid vehicles to hit that mark. Uchiyamada is known as the “father of the Prius” for his role in popularizing the world’s best-selling hybrid car.

“Environmental awareness has become a bigger issue today than it was 20 years ago, and demand for environmentally conscious products has increased,” Uchiyamada told reporters at an event to launch the latest plug-in version of the Prius in Japan.

Uchiyamada said he had “no idea” exactly when plug-in sales would hit the 1 million mark even while the technology for plug-ins has developed rapidly which has helpedin the lowering of costs. Toyota has sold a total of 10 million hybrid vehicles globally and has developed hybrid versions for around 40 of its models since launching the original Prius, in 1997.

While expecting that more than half of the sales would be coming from Japan, Toyota expects to sell up to 60,000 worldwide a year, the company said while launching of the second generation of the Prius PHV in Japan on Wednesday.

Primarily due to its limited electric range of 26.4 kilometers, only around 75,000 have been sold since its launch in 2012 for its plug-in Prius and Toyota had set a similar target for the first generation of its plug-in Prius.

According to Japanese standards, the latest version has a range of 68.2 kilometers. The vehicles’ range is listed in the United States as around 25 miles (40.2 kms) due to a different methodology in measuring a car’s electric mode range.

The plug-in Prius will be introduced in Europe from March and the Prius Prime was launched in North America late last year. There were no comments made by Uchiyamada on plans to offer plug-in versions of other models.

While the Japanese car maker had, for years, resisted the technology commonly used in all-battery electric vehicles, due to concerns over their cost, size and safety, the latest plug-in Prius sees Toyota widely endorsing lithium-ion batteries, marking a turning point for the company and its strategy with regadfrs to battery for hybrid and electric cars.

While a lack of hydrogen fuelling stations remains a major hurdle for mass consumption, Toyota has promoted fuel cell-powered vehicles as the most sensible next-generation option to hybrids, even as rivals including Nissan Motor Co and Tesla have marketed electric cars for nearly a decade.

And Toyota late last year set up a new division to speed up development of long-range electric cars in response to more and more automakers starting to develop electric cars to respond to the tightening global emissions regulations fpor traditional cars.

(Adapted from Reuters)

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