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Hallowed hybrid halves emissions

Prius push: Toyota aims to launch the petrol-electric Prius hybrid in Australia in July, 2000, at a price around $35,000.

Toyota's industry-leading hybrid Prius sedan is expected on sale in Australia next July

21 Jun 1999

GOVERNMENT buyers are expected to snap up the bulk of Toyota's radical petrol-electric Prius hybrid when sales start next July. Toyota Australia is negotiating with the parent company to effect modifications to ensure the car meets Australian Design Rules (ADRs). The Prius uses a 1.5-litre, four-cylinder, 16-valve petrol engine that produces 43kW and 102Nm, mated to a generator and 30kW electric motor. It is expected to cost about $35,000. Prius emits only 10 per cent of the carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide and hydrocarbon exhaust gases allowed under Australian Design Rule 37/01. Because fuel economy is rated at 3.57 litres per 100km (half that of a comparably sized conventional car), greenhouse gas emissions are halved. Several ADR issues - such as child restraint anchorages - need to be addressed to make the Prius eligible for sale here. But the Japanese car-maker is focusing more on the US and European markets as they will account for the vast majority of Prius sales. "Prius is selling very well in Japan - around 3000 per month - but volumes here will be very small," said Toyota Australia's sales and planning manager for environmental products, Mr Neil Daniel. "It will take five or six years before the technology is accepted here." Toyota Motor Corp. is amortising the development costs of the Prius by making a conventional petrol-engined version but this variant will not be offered in Australia. Although Toyota Australia is keen to introduce other alternative fuel technology in the near future, it says it faces an uphill battle. "It is very difficult to convince Japan to commit to alternative fuel technology for Australia when petrol is so cheap and the biggest selling cars are powered by 4.0-litre, six-cylinder engines," Mr Daniel said. The strength of the petroleum lobby and the lack of legislation for fleets to reduce emissions also posed barriers for the advent of alternative fuel technology in Australia, he said. Meanwhile, Toyota Australia is sponsoring a nationwide environmental education project. The Australian Youth Parliament for the Environment (AYPE), The Natural Step Australia and Greenfleet are also involved in the project. At the heart of the package is The Carbon Buster's Handbook - Toward Sustainable Transport - a joint publication from the AYPE, Greenfleet and Toyota Australia.

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