20 years after the first Prius was sold internationally, Toyota's just about to crack the milestone of selling 80,000 hybrids in Australia after 16 years. According to the company, that's 232 million litres of petrol saved and 560 million kilograms of CO2 not spewed into the atmosphere. And those are both good things.
Of those 80,000 vehicles, more than 45,000 are Camry Hybrid sedans sold since 2010, with 20,000 Priuses since 2001 — Toyota's first hybrid into Australia. Four million Priuses have been sold around the world, with the hybrid project starting development in 1994 and the first Japan-only model winning the country's Car of the Year award in 1997.
Toyota's newest, fourth-generation Prius is a much improved vehicle over earlier generations, and is one of the first hybrids we've driven that actually feels just like its petrol or diesel equivalents — there's no obvious hybridness to it. The newest Camry is the company's widest-selling hybrid since sales started in 2001, and accounts for more than half of Toyota's hybrid sales annually.
The long-term economics of hybrid vehicles is an interesting debate: batteries, especially in older models, need to be replaced or refurbished at significant cost. But at the end of their life cycle, those batteries can be almost fully recycled and re-used or converted into different materials — the only expenditure being the energy necessary to do that. Hybrids save significant amounts of fuel over even efficient internal combustion-only vehicles, especially in shorter stop-start city traffic.
Toyota has built a new Prius that it says is not only incredibly efficient with the way it uses petrol, but is also fun to drive. It's not exactly a balls-to-the-wall race car, but it is fun — in its own way — especially if you like challenging yourself to save fuel.