Corolla hy­brid strug­gles

Matamata Chronicle - - Out & About - MO­TOR­ING

Have hy­brids had their day? I couldn’t help pon­der­ing this prospect while driv­ing the $38,490 Toy­ota Corolla hy­brid. It’s a nice enough lit­tle jig­ger that costs $3000 more than an even bet­ter five-door Corolla – the $35,490 GLX, pow­ered by a more con­ven­tional pow­er­train.

By my cal­cu­la­tions it’ll take at least five years of own­er­ship to re­coup the ex­tra pur­chase premium of the hy­brid via the promised fuel use sav­ings of con­sum­ing two less litres of fuel than the GLX over ev­ery 100km trav­elled.

Move to the coun­try, where open road use will see those sav­ings vir­tu­ally evap­o­rate, and it may be a decade be­fore the Corolla hy­brid’s petrol­elec­tric tech­nol­ogy pays for it­self.

High-pro­file res­i­dents like Leonardo DiCaprio and Ge­orge Clooney quickly be­came fan-boys for the Prius (pos­si­bly with the help of some in­cen­tives to be­come so from Toy­ota).

The Prius that do­nated its dual-en­gine pow­er­train to this Corolla re­mains the world’s most pop­u­lar hy­brid car, and Cal­i­for­nia’s roads are ab­so­lutely chock full of pod-like Toy­otas be­ing driven by would-be Earth Moth­ers and Fa­thers.

Toy­ota has made more than eight mil­lion Prius ve­hi­cles since 2000, a re­mark­able fig­ure given that the car was meant only to be a stop-gap mea­sure to pro­tect car sales from that late 20th Cen­tury bo­gey – Peak Oil.

These days, even the CEO of Toy­ota North Amer­ica, Jim Lentz, re­alises that Peak Oil ‘‘has been de­layed to some in­de­ter­mi­nate time’’ by the en­su­ing ad­vances in oil ex­plo­ration and ex­trac­tion tech­nolo­gies ac­cord­ing to re­cent state­ments given to that most la­conic of in­ter­view­ers, Charlie Rose. This would ap­pear to make hy­brid ve­hi­cles rather point­less given they were in­tended to push the peak in oil pro­duc­tion fur­ther into the fu­ture while more ef­fec­tive au­to­mo­tive en­ergy tech­nolo­gies could be de­vel­oped and rolled out.

Ac­cord­ing to Lentz, Toy­ota be­gan work­ing on hy­brid ve­hi­cles and hy­dro­gen-pow­ered fuel cell ve­hi­cles at the same time in 1992. The for­mer tech­nol­ogy was to iso­late Toy­ota sales from oil price shocks while the harder work was be­ing com­pleted on the hy­dro­gen front.

- Paul Owen

SUP­PLIED

Mild-man­nered Corolla on the out­side, mild-man­nered petrol-elec­tric hy­brid on the in­side.

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