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Hybrid cars on the way

Article PhotoHybrid cars - love them or hate them.

Thanks to rising petrol costs, changing lifestyle needs and lower purchasing prices, hybrids are now a real part of the Australian motoring industry.

According to a recently released survey from Roy Morgan Research, the number of Australians who would consider buying a hybrid vehicle has increased for the first time since 2008.

Based on the results, close to 46 per cent of the more than 2.2 million Australians thinking about purchasing a car in the next four years have a hybrid vehicle as part of their purchasing equation. Roy Morgan explains that this represents an increase of 2.4 per cent on 2013 and at least 21,000 people.

Roy Morgan's Industry Director of Automotive Jordan Pakes, explained most manufacturers are considering making hybrids, if they haven't already started.

"With a growing variety of hybrid cars now on the market; ranging from the budget-friendly Toyota Prius C and Honda Jazz Hybrid, through to luxury models including the all new BMW i8, motorists have more opportunity than ever to choose a hybrid model manufactured by their preferred automotive make," he said in a December 15 media statement.

Mr Pakes went onto state that many manufacturers are beginning to release hybrid SUVs.

"Nissan's recently launched Pathfinder Hybrid is listed as Australia's cheapest hybrid SUV at $42,990 plus on-roads. The Pathfinder Hybrid offers a fuel saving of around 15 per cent when compared to the regular Pathfinder, and is only $3,000 more expensive than the entry level ST 2WD," he explained.

A hybrid variant of the Range Rover sport is being released in Australia early this year.

Records, records, records

2014 saw two records broken in the hybrid market, both associated with one of the biggest hybrid players in the market - Toyota. In March, Toyota Australia announced that it had sold its 50,000th hybrid model - with half being the locally produced Camry.

In October, Toyota reported that they had broken the 7 million mark in international hybrid vehicle sales. In fact, the last million cars were sold in less than nine months - highlighting the rapid rise of hybrid vehicles around the globe.

Buyer's choice

Roy Morgan's survey also looked into whether the make that an individual was considering purchasing also affected if people would consider a hybrid vehicle.

According to the results, there were three stand out leaders in this category. A total of 64.2 per cent of people in the market for a Volvo would additionally seriously consider a hybrid. This was followed by Kia (60.3 per cent of respondents) and 58.8 per cent of those interested in Lexus.

At the other end of the scale, just 28.7 per cent of consumers in the market for a Mercedes- Benz or Jeep (30.8 per cent) would do the same.

What will come after hybrids?

While a hybrid engine is definitely becoming a mainstream option for many drivers, another fuel source is making waves around the world - hydrogen.

Mr Pakes said that Toyota is leading the way, with a hydrogen-powered vehicle on sale in Japan and available in the US and Europe by mid-2015. However, Australia is still some-way off full implementation.

"Locally, Hyundai Australia is also embracing this new technology, importing a hydrogen-powered ix35 recently and currently installing the first hydrogen-refuelling station for passenger cars at its Sydney headquarters," he stated.

"But with no other refill stations available, it will be a long time before hydrogen cars start hitting the show room floors in Australia."

As a way of encouraging people to purchase hybrid vehicles, the NSW government is looking at fuel type and green house emissions as factors in determining the registration and green slip price for vehicles in NSW.