Toyota Chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada likes to tell the story of how his team couldn’t get the first Prius prototype to move for 49 days. According to him, “We had no idea what was wrong, so we worked late every night trying to figure it out. We finally got it to move around Christmas time, but it only went 500 meters!”
That was back in 1995, when hybrid cars were unproven, experimental machines with a very unclear future. Fast-forward twenty years, and Toyota has now sold over 8 million hybrid vehicles1, with just 10 months between this and the last million-unit milestone.
It can be hard to get a sense of what the number 8 million might mean for the environment and for hybrid owners. For a bit of context, Toyota calculates that as of July 31, its hybrid vehicles have resulted in approximately 58 million fewer tons2 of CO2 emissions3 than would have been emitted by gasoline-powered vehicles of similar size and driving performance. Toyota also estimates that its hybrid vehicles have saved approximately 22 million kiloliters of gasoline compared to the amount used by gasoline-powered vehicles of similar sizes.
The message is clear: having found homes in driveways around the world, hybrids have staying power. Since the launch of the Prius in 1997, Toyota has been gradually adding hybrid models throughout its range, from the compact Yaris Hybrid to the recently announced RAV4 Hybrid. As of this month, Toyota sells 30 hybrid passenger car models and one plug-in hybrid model in more than 90 markets.
Over just the past year, Toyota has made several new hybrid models available, including the Esquire Hybrid (Japan only), the Lexus RC300h, and the recently launched Sienta Hybrid. Other new hybrid models are just around the corner, such as the Corolla Hybrid and Levin Hybrid (China only) and RAV4 Hybrid. This ongoing roll-out will only continue, with new hybrid models being added to Toyota’s range and sold in more markets than ever before.
Hybrid technologies, which encompass all of the component technologies necessary for the development of environment-friendly cars and which facilitate the use of different fuel combinations, are positioned by Toyota as core environmental technologies for the twenty-first century. Using these technologies, Toyota is also working on improving non-hybrid cars. Across the board, Toyota aims to enhance performance, reduce costs, and expand its product lineup—including that of non-hybrid vehicles.