Engineers are only scratching the surface of hybrid’s potential.
That’s according to senior Toyota engineers – based in Japan and Europe – with whom I spoke in Madrid recently.
They also argued it is too soon for their brand to start making electric vehicles in greater volumes.
For now, and for the foreseeable future, it is very much about making even more advances in hybrid technology.
And there is a lot of scope, they said. Progress is being sought by, and delivered to, company executives on a regular basis, while the steady increase in sales worldwide suggests buyer needs are being met.
But there is much more coming down the line, they insisted, as they push to make ever more efficient hybrids.
That involves, for example, making even smaller and higher-density battery packs and systems.
We spoke with them as part of the introduction of pre-production versions of the new Toyota Corolla 5dr hatchback (pictured) and Touring Sports (estate).
There was major focus on the new 2-litre petrol hybrid in the line-up. It will slot in with the latest version of the 1.8-litre hybrid (there is a 1.2-turbo petrol as well).
There can be a misconception that hybrids are all about fuel economy. They are largely so, but the mix between power and frugality can be blended to favour the former too. Hence the arrival of a 2-litre 180bhp petrol hybrid to flesh out the powertrains driving the new Corollas and to compete on power with 2-litre diesels.
Understandably, the engineers were massively for hybrids – 12.5m sales worldwide speaks for itself. But they also brought a degree of reality to the energy-source debate.
They reckon the time isn’t right just yet for them to swing to electric vehicles (EVs) – globally, infrastructure, battery performance, range etc are still against wider application, they claimed. But they are ready to go EV quite quickly, if needs be, because their hybrids are already geared for full electrification. They have the ingredients, they said, claiming the switch will be easy when the time is right.
And what about plug-in hybrids for smaller family cars such as the Corolla?
Not really, they said. People who buy those cars are not inclined to spend the extra money on plug-ins.
Mind you, with the €7,500 in VRT refunds and SEAI grants in Ireland, price may not be as big a deterrent as in other countries. They, however, were talking globally.
And anyway, new research seems to show the hybrid is doing the business – with substantial percentages of time and distance covered in pure electric mode.