Sales of hybrid cars are skyrocketing in Australia, fuelled by Toyota’s RAV4 hybrid which landed in 2019. Is this a good thing?
The Australian auto market has been declining for more than two years now, and while interest in electric vehicles rose 27.8% in July (from a small base and excluding Tesla sales), Toyota’s RAV4 hybrid, which sells from around $42,000 driveway, has driven a new record for hybrid vehicle sales in Australia.
As The Driven reported on Wednesday, hybrid SUV sales jumped again in July, almost tripling from sales a year before.
Toyota says that it sold 6,200 hybrid vehicles in July, 40% of all its vehicles sold in that month, but the percentage is even higher in the SUV department.
Four in five Toyota RAV4s sold in July of the hybrid variety, which costs about $2,500 more than its petrol counterpart, meaning that nearly 3,500 more hybrid RAV4s are now on Australian roads.
For the entire year to date, Toyota has now sold around 12,000 hybrid RAV4s, accounting for three out four hybrid SUVs sold in Australia.
“There has been an extraordinary demand for RAV4 since its launch, especially for the hybrid variants which now account for more than 50% of the model’s sales,” a spokesperson for Toyota Australia told The Driven.
So is this a good thing for the environment?
Hybrids like the RAV4 cannot be plugged in at the wall, meaning they have no ability to make use of renewably-generated electricity.
They do reduce fossil-fuel use however, and therefore carbon emissions. According to the Green Car Guide, the RAV4 hybrid uses about 40% less fuel than its petrol counterpart (which equates to big savings at the petrol pump).
It’s not enough to achieve a zero emissions future, but it’s a start – commonly considered a transition technology, hybrids and plug-in hybrids bridge the gap between internal combustion vehicles and pure electric, zero emissions, vehicles.
And unlike electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, their sticker price is typically no more than a few thousand dollars more than plug-in models, meaning that they are accessible to a wider range of household and business budgets.
The big jump in hybrid sales signals a trend towards consumers seeking vehicles that are cheaper to run, if not seeking to lower personal carbon footprints.
However, the ability to supply enough vehicles to meet demand is also part of the picture.
Kia has pulled the award-winning all-electric e-Niro and its stablemate e-Soul – both of which would have added more electric SUV choice locally – from an Australian release for the foreseeable future.
This is because of a lack of government policy in Australia to allay uncertainty over electric sales, and to meet demand in overseas markets that must meet compulsory emissions limits.
In April, Toyota said that to meet demand locally, its Australian arm had been able to secure additional supply of RAV4 Hybrids. These started arriving in July, hence the big jump in sales.
“We believe that this has also contributed to the higher than usual sales performance in the month of July,” the spokesperson said.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.
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