Toyota Australia has long been one of the great deniers of the benefits of plug-in hybrid technology.
For years the company has stated that its petrol-electric hybrid models - which are not plug-in hybrids, as they don’t require a plug to use their battery pack to its best advantage - were a better option for customers.
And Toyota Australia vice president of sales and marketing, Sean Hanley, still thinks that is the case. But Mr Hanley admits the introduction of plug-in hybrid models in the Toyota range is a matter of when, not if.
“I’ve never been opposed (to plug-in hybrids). The reality is, at some point, we will have plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. That’s true,” he said. “I just don’t know whether it’s the most practical solution in the market right now.
“But it certainly serves to reduce CO2. We are entering a period where - I have no doubt in the future - there’ll be legislation around CO2 output (in Australia).
“So therefore, plug-in hybrid vehicles will be an important part of our range to meet those obligations moving forward,” said Mr Hanley.
To take the Toyota Prius as an example. The regular series hybrid model sold in the US is said to use 4.7L/100km, while the plug-in hybrid - known as the Prius Prime or Prius PHV - has a claimed combined fuel use figure of just 1.7L/100km, with up to 68km of electric range from a full charge for some variants.
Mr Hanley indicated that the addition of any plug-in model to the range would help lower the brand’s CO2 impact, even if there is no current legislation for Australia to see automotive makers reduce CO2 outputs.
“We are working with the FCAI (Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries), and we have been for some time, as have other car manufacturers. We’re making tremendous in-roads through the FCAI on both sides of the government, but regardless of that, as an industry - one thing we all agree on, there’s no debate, is that we must start now to reduce our CO2 output in Australia.
“We’re planning ahead - we’re not waiting for legislation in the future. We’re planning now for what we believe will be the future. We see 20 per cent hybrid vehicles by 2020 in Australia, and potentially up to 40 per cent by 2030.
“I don’t think legislation will be the driver for Toyota. We’ve got a community responsibility to reduce our CO2 footprint. So whether it comes or doesn’t come, we’re working to reduce ours (on a global scale) by 90 per cent by 2050,” said Mr Hanley.
Mr Hanley also confirmed the brand is looking to have the second-generation Mirai hydrogen fuel-cell model on sale in Australia in a couple of years, and it will be sold alongside a fully electric car - but timing is unconfirmed for that one.
"Electric vehicles will come to Australia, and Toyota Australia will certainly be part of bringing electric vehicles to Australia in the future. It's a matter of when, not if," said Mr Hanley.