Hybrid numbers start to stack up

22 May 2012

Toyota Prius old and new

Throw a stick up a central London street and you’d probably hit a hybrid (or a U-turning black cab, or a stationary bus, or possibly a cyclist running a red). Fuelled initially by the London Congestion Charge and latterly by their suitability for gliding painlessly between traffic lights, there are now oodles of hybrids threading the narrow lanes of the capital.

According to Toyota, it has sold 94,000 hybrids in the UK to date. About two thirds of the full number were Priuses, and just under a third were Lexus hybrids of one sort or another, mostly the previous generation RX softroader.

Lexus RX 400h side view

By a quirk of legislative whim the RX 400h became an attractive London city car for a while, having been deemed exempt from the Congestion Charge despite being a rather large and heavy SUV.

A small but growing sliver of about 10% of Toyota’s hybrid total is accounted for by the British-built Auris Hybrid, which looks to have been selling smartly at the expense of the larger Prius.

Honda, meanwhile, seems to have sold somewhat in excess of 20,000 hybrids in the UK so far. Of those, about a third are accounted for by the booted Civic Hybrid, about 40% the Insight hatchback, and another 15% the lovely and lithe little CR-Z coupe. The unconvincing Jazz Hybrid brings up the rear with fewer than 10% of Honda hybrid sales.

Honda CR-Z rear view

Accounting for the inevitable proportion of hybrids currently creeping around the giant scrapyard in the sky, more than 100,000 must surely now be on UK roads. Which sounds a lot, but is actually only about 1 in every 300 cars currently registered.

Worldwide, Toyota says it has sold four million hybrids, a figure that includes a fair number of vehicles never imported to the UK (the Kluger Hybrid, for example – and no, I don’t know what a Kluger is either).

Numbers will probably jump up sharply next year, with the introduction of the French-built Toyota Yaris hybrid, which will offer a 79g/km CO2 rating and a starting price of £14,995, making it the cheapest hybrid on the market and so, presumably, a big seller.

I’m zipping over to Holland next week to drive the Yaris Hybrid for the first time, so I’ll let you know if it’s a good car that will soon be adding to the clogged arteries of the capital, or a bit rubbish and destined to sit whistling and unloved on empty forecourts.

[Update: I gave the Yaris Hybrid five out of five stars – it felt like good car at a keen price for a hybrid.]

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