Apr 012012

Green Car of the Year

It may have been a bit of a surprise given the rising level of competition, but Toyota has further enhanced its green motoring credentials by winning the Fleet News Awards Green Car of the Year award.

Toyota Prius C - Hybrid Supercompact Car

Toyota Prius C - Hybrid Supercompact Car

The industry news magazine, which is aimed at decision-makers within the van and company car industry, noted the Japanese automaker’s hybrids in coming to its decision, along with the company’s overall strategy in terms of making its vehicles greener. As such, the accolade represents the latest coup for an automaker that has started to invest considerable money, time and energy into developing more eco-friendly vehicles.

Prius Range Expanded

Indeed, Toyota’s recent track record when it comes to greener car technology has proved impressive. After launching the Prius, the market leading hybrid, back in 1997, the Japanese car manufacturer has recently started to expand the popular range.

Prius C – Eco Yaris

The new Prius C, the smallest in the hybrid range, represents yet further diversification at just 157 inches long. In other words, it’s not dissimilar to the Toyota Yaris, which makes it a true subcompact. It was launched at the end of last year and would certainly have figured in the thinking of the judges at Fleet News. It makes an ideal city runaround, not least because it has a limited electric-only range.

Prius Plus – 5 or 7 Seats

Other larger models have also become part of Toyota’s ever-expanding hybrid strategy. The Prius v, revealed last year, is a take on the third generation of the standard vehicle with more than 50 per cent more space for cargo. Similarly the Prius Plus, which came onto the Japanese market in the middle of last year, is available in both as both a 5-seater with two rows and a 7-seater with three rows of seating.

Prius Plus – Power Source

The bigger of the two represents a deviation from the standard Prius in terms of power source, in that a lithium-ion battery is stowed away in the centre console to save all-important space. By comparison, the 5-seater model is powered by a NiMH battery in some markets and a lithium-ion battery in others. Still not available in Europe, Toyota has changed the name of this model to the Prius+ ahead of a launch on the continent sometime around the middle of this year.

When you put this all together, Toyota’s hybrid range has had a real impact on the global car market, which makes it a worthy winner of its latest award in the UK. Now available in over 70 countries, the Prius hit 2.5 million sales globally in February.

Prius EV lags

In terms of all-electric vehicles, however, it could be argued that Toyota is lagging behind companies like Nissan and Chevrolet, which have launched the Leaf and Spark respectively in recent years. Still, these are vehicles that have struggled to gain wide appeal as other EV cars continue to develop in terms of range and recharge capability.

Toyota Prius Plug in Hybrid Seven Seat Car

Toyota Prius Plug in Hybrid Seven Seat Car

Ambitious Electric Strategy

Toyota’s eco-friendly vehicles therefore remain prize-winners because, for the time being, they enjoy far wider use. To win further accolades in this segment though, Toyota will surely have to develop a more ambitious electric strategy.

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