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Hybrid car sales power ahead of electric vehicles

Japanese carmarker Toyota is seeing hybrid cars fly out of showrooms.

Japanese carmarker Toyota is seeing hybrid cars fly out of showrooms. Photo: Getty

More Australians are choosing eco-friendly vehicles for their next ride, with sales figures revealing low-emission cars are soaring in popularity.

It’s not high-profile electric cars racking up the greatest sales though, but hybrid vehicles that combine battery and fuel technology.

Hybrid vehicles have become so popular in Australia they now make up more than one in every three cars sold by Toyota.

But experts say the trend may be a “halfway” measure in Australia’s transition to a more environmentally friendly fleet and a result of overdue electric vehicle policies.

New sales figures from the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries this week revealed Australians’ new love for hybrid vehicles, with more than 8500 sold in November – almost double the number of battery electric vehicles at 4457.

Plug-in hybrid cars, which feature electric and fuel engines, represented a much smaller percentage of the market, selling just 459 vehicles during the month.

Chamber chief executive Tony Weber said recent tax cuts on low-emission vehicles would boost sales but introducing fuel quality and efficiency standards could have a bigger impact in the coming months.

“Purchase incentives for zero and low-emission vehicles and increased fuel quality standards are both important levers in reducing CO2 emissions from Australia’s light vehicle fleet,” Mr Weber said.

Australia’s top-selling car brand, Toyota, dominated the hybrid vehicle sales surge, with its cars making up 85 per cent of all hybrids sold in Australia during November.

A Toyota spokesperson said hybrid vehicle sales this year had outstripped 2021 sales with a month still to go.

“Hybrids are an important part of our electrification strategy,” he said.

“They now account for more than 30 per cent of our annual sales in Australia and we have delivered more than 300,000 of these fuel-efficient vehicles since the first Prius was released in 2001.

“We remain absolutely committed to providing our customers with a range of affordable and practical options with technologies that support a more sustainable future, ensuring we leave no-one behind.”

The company sells nine hybrid vehicles in Australia, ranging from the smaller Yaris and Corolla Hatch to the larger RAV4 and Kluger.

Climate Council senior researcher Carl Tidemann said it was little wonder hybrids were becoming popular as they were widely available, cheaper to buy than battery electric cars and cheaper to run.

But Dr Tidemann said the move was also a “double-edged sword” as it would keep petrol cars on the road in Australia for years to come.

“They will fill a gap because [electric vehicle] options are limited but they do lock in fuel use for longer,” he said.

“This is a trend that has happened because a policy vacuum has developed. It’s an outcome of EVs not being available rather than a positive middle ground.

“An EV would be better but they’re not nearly as affordable so it’s understandable that people are buying hybrids.”

Dr Tidemann said electric vehicles would be more popular in Australia if governments had introduced emission targets across manufacturers’ fleets, as other countries had done “some time ago”.

The federal government is examining responses to its National Electric Vehicle Strategy consultation paper, which attracted more than 500 submissions at the end of October.

Recent policy changes have also cut fringe benefits tax on electric vehicles and seen $20.5 million invested in discounted electric car loans by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

– AAP

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