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Could Prius-type hybrids fill vacuum left by discredited diesels in Europe? 
Peter Schmidt | Editor

Published: Fri, 16th June 2017 12:41:18 GMT

Toyota Hybrid synergy drive AID Newsletter Report Editorial

Open quote signBy any stretch of the imagination, particularly in the fast moving automotive world, it is a rare development indeed that a flopped product or technology is offered a second lease of life. But just such a second lease of life, at least here in Europe, is now in prospect for cars featuring Toyota-pioneered petrol-electric hybrid technology.

This petrol-electric technology, while hugely successful in Japan today, remains only an also-ran business in the US where it presently accounts for just 2.2 per cent of new car sales.

Worse still, in Europe, Prius-type hybrids never managed to rise above wallflower status.

That’s chiefly because the fuel-sipper role was admirably served by diesels.

So much so that every second car sold in Europe was diesel fuelled.

However, with diesels now well on the way out, what are the realistic alternatives to meet the EU’s stiff 95g/km average fleet CO2 levels from 2021?

Arguably, in the half decade ahead - for mass market appeal - today’s electric cars (BEVs) and even PHEVs can be dismissed by virtue of today’s high prices, inadequate driving range and today’s deficient recharging network.

So how about Prius-type electric hybrids as an interim solution to continue the cast-in-stone year-on-year reductions of fleet average CO2 levels from cars in Europe?

This technology was of course masterminded by Toyota and commercialised first in its trailblazing Prius.

Chiefly, these petrol-electric hybrids were developed as an affordable antidote to forever climbing oil prices that last peaked in mid-2008.

Put simply, fuel sippers at a time when fuel prices were destined to soar from one high to another.

As it turns out, since then oil prices have collapsed and Joe Public is spoiled by a previously unexpected cheap-fuel era.

The way things are looking today, oil now seems destined to hover around the $50 level for the foreseeable future at best.

All in all, after getting nowhere by way of halfway decent sales in previously diesel-dominated Europe, the question urgently being asked is this: Could simple petrol-electric hybrids fill the fuel-sipper vacuum left by the diesels now dumped in droves by Europe’s increasingly anxious diesel car owners?

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

That at least is the impression gained from Toyota’s current cash-draining business model in Europe.

Some of its rivals, it seems, are watching its intensifying hybrid car sales push in Europe, likely ready to pounce if Toyota’s increasingly promising looking European hybrid car sales efforts are paying dividends.

Skipping the ‘wait and see’ stage, in Europe Korea’s Hyundai-Kia have already launched without customary fanfares their own plain Prius-type hybrids.

This in a self-evident wager that these cars could potentially fill the void suddenly left by Europe’s discredited and increasingly shunned diesels.

Audi’s strategic thinkers, it seems, have also seen the future.

The all-new A8 luxury car, to be unveiled July 11th in Barcelona Spain, will come as standard with a 48 Volt hybrid drive system
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