Yesterday, which just happened to be Toyota’s 76th birthday, I attended the manufacturer’s Hybrid World Tour conference in Ypsilanti, Michigan.
For the event, Toyota gathered together, for the first time, its entire alternatively fuelled vehicle range from around the globe – from the little iQ EV to the fantastic TS030 Le Mans racer, which won't available any time soon at a dealer near you, unfortunately. Between Toyota and sister brand Lexus, there are 23 hybrid models on offer around the world.
The theme of the event was Toyota’s past, present and future as far as hybrid and other strands of alternative technology is concerned. To me, one of the unspoken messages was that while many other major manufacturers have either cautiously dipped their toes in the alternatively fuelled market or arrived at the hybrid party fashionably late, Toyota has been at this game for 16 years.
To misquote Kermit, it’s not easy being the first to go green. When the original Toyota Prius was unveiled to the world back in the late 1990s, it was embraced by early adopters but ignored by the majority. It was apparently dismissed by GM’s Bob Lutz as little more than a science project.
What that first Prius did do, though, was open up a demand for more fuel-efficient vehicles that didn’t even seem to exist previously. In 1997 a gallon of petrol was cheaper than a gallon of bottled water in the US, and motorists paid little mind to fuel economy and CO2 emissions.