Toyota’s chairman has said that he expects Toyota to sell one million plug-in hybrids considerably faster than the 10 years it took its conventional hybrid to reach this milestone.
While Takeshi Uchiyamada – known as the ‘father of the Prius’ – would not be drawn on a more specific date, he said that the pace of development of plug-in technology has been rapid due to environmental concerns, and that this has precipitated a dramatic reduction in costs.
He said: ‘Environmental awareness has become a bigger issue today than it was 20 years ago, and demand for environmentally conscious products has increased.’
This comes as Toyota recently announced that it had sold 10 million hybrids since launching the original Prius in 1997, with the last million sold in only the last nine months. Toyota has created hybrid versions for around 40 of its models so far.
The second generation Prius plug-in hybrid launched in North America at the end of 2016 as the Prius Prime and is now coming to Europe. Sales have been strong, with HybridCars data showing the Prius Prime’s sales were second in January, ahead of the Tesla Model S and behind the best-selling Chevrolet Volt.
It expects to sell up to 60,000 of the model worldwide every year, with more than half of this total coming from its home market of Japan. The poor sales figures of the first generation plug-in were blamed on range anxiety but the range has now been improved, rising from 26.4km to 68.2km.
Notably this new model uses lithium ion batteries - in line with rivals. Toyota long resisted the use of the technology due to concerns over cost, size and safety, and opted for nickel metal hydride batteries instead, which are less environmentally friendly. Lithium ions are smaller, lighter and more energetically dense, which helps to boost electric range.
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