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."