- Toyota sees only upside for hybrid Hilux, Landcruiser
- Electrified sales to top 40 percent by 2030 locally
- Infrastructure still a key stumbling block
A hybrid version of Australia's best-selling ute, the Toyota Hilux, is inevitable, according to the company's most senior executives.
Ask Sean Hanley, Toyota Australia’s vice-president of sales and marketing, about whether petrol-electric versions of the Hilux - or indeed the Landcruiser - are a good idea for this country, and he immediately gets fired up.
“As an industry, one thing we all agree on – and there’s no debate – is that we MUST reduce our CO2 here in Australia," he said at the Tokyo Motor Show. "We’re planning ahead, we’re not waiting for legislation, we’re planning now for what we think is the future. We’re not waiting.”
Hybrids are a subject close to Hanley's heart. He was the man tasked with introducing the Prius to Australia back in 2001, and though many manufacturers have introduced hybrids, plug-in hybrids and fully-electric vehicles in those intervening years, Hanley says Toyota still has a leadership position when it comes to low-emission vehicles.
Toyota Australia has a plan to grow its total sales mix of hybrid cars from its current level of 12 percent to around 20 percent by the end of 2020. By 2030, Hanley expects that sales of all electrified Toyotas – including hybrids, plug-ins, pure-EVs and fuel-cell vehicles – to account for a solid 40 percent of Toyota Australia’s annual volume.
It's a slightly conservative number compared to the more bullish predictions of some other companies, but one that Hanley feels is realistic for this country.
Read more: Hilux to go electric
“Electrification in its current form is quite expensive," he said. "Therefore we don’t see hybrid-electric as an interim solution, we see it as one of four [long-term solutions]. I think ultimately … Toyota will certainly be part of bringing electric vehicles to Australia, it’s just a matter of when – not if."
Hanley wouldn't be drawn on EV timing but believes that infrastructure - or a lack of it - is a key factor.
“I don’t have a particular date to announce today, but it’s fair to say that between 2025 and 2030 we’ll have EVs in the Toyota lineup in Australia," he said. "Globally they’ll have them a long way before that, but it’s just a matter of time before we bring them to our country. I don’t think [the timing] is down to the people’s readiness, I think it gets down to infrastructure and I think it gets down to affordability."
Read more: Australia is an EV backwater
So where does that leave one of Australia’s most popular vehicles, the Hilux? According to Hanley, Toyota’s customers working in trades or living in regional areas are more than ready for a battery-enhanced workhorse.
“We’ve currently got what we call a ‘hybrid cavalcade’, with a number of our vehicles on trucks going around to our regional dealers, inviting customers to events to talk about hybrids, how they work and above all dispelling myths about hybrids, battery life, what they’re capable of and how much they cost," he said.
"What we’re finding out is two things: our regional areas, particularly in the agricultural sector, is that they are well advanced in alternate powertrains in terms of their own machinery. What we’re also learning is that they’re very enthusiastic for Toyota to bring out commercial vehicles as hybrids, and they’re also very enthusiastic to learn what those commercial vehicles would be capable of doing.
"These people work the land. They live and breathe the nutrients of the earth, so they’re all for reducing CO2 footprint, and 100 percent committed to the agricultural sector.”
Hanley also said that the venerable Landcruiser (below) will live on for the foreseeable future.
“Whatever we do in the future, we will continue to have Hiluxes and we will continue to have Landcruisers going forward," he said. "Whatever we bring out, will have the capability required to fulfil their [rural buyers] requirements. We don’t have any announcements on a hybrid ute today, but we are certainly looking at all of those types of expansions going forward.”
However, a hybrid Hilux is still some time away. With the current Hilux platform not being compatible with electrification and only halfway through its lifecycle, an electrified heir likely won’t appear until deeper into the next decade. A purely electric Hilux also seems unlikely at this point.
The Landcruiser, meanwhile, is gearing up to launch in its new generation (expected to be dubbed the 300 Series) in the near future, and a hybrid powerplant is suspected to form part of the range.
Diesel-electric hasn’t been ruled out, but with Toyota’s much greater experience with petrol-electric hybrids it will be interesting to see what fuel source they end up selecting… not to mention what Australia’s farmers and tradies think of it when they arrive.