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