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The Australian Hybrids are coming

Australia is about to see its largest car manufacturers race off to deliver the newest versions of their hybrid cars locally made in Australia. Expected to be manufactured from 2010 onwards these vehicles represent a significant shot in the arm for both Australian manufacturing and fuel saving environmentally friendly initiatives.

To assist Toyota the Federal Government has agreed to kick in $35million from the new $500 million Green Car Innovation Fund set up by the Rudd Government. The announcement has created a green race between two of Australia’s three local vehicle producers – Holden and Toyota – to see which will be the first to the new range of hybrid cars to the market.

The recent annoucement from a senior General Motors executive that Holden would begin selling a hybrid version of its Commodore by 2010, will have Holden seeking a part of the Green Car Innovation Fund as well.

“A very historic day” was how Victorian premier John Brumby described the Toyota “It marks the start of an exciting new era in our automotive industry.”

The Toyota Camry hybrid is expected to use between six and seven litres of fuel per 100 kilometres travelled, around 35 per cent less fuel than a regular four-cylinder petrol automatic Camry and about the same as a small car.

Carbon dioxide emissions for the hybrid Camry should fall from about 230 grams per kilometre to 140g/km. The hybrid Camry should save its owner roughly $1600 a year in fuel bills, compared with the normal petrol Camry (based on 25,000km a year usage).

But buyers of the hybrid Camry will pay up-front for the privilege. With prices expected for the hybrid Camry to come close to $35,000, it represents a significant premium over the standard four-cylinder petrol Camry and is still more expensive than the V6 Toyota Aurion. The hybrid Camry however is likely to come with more equipment than the base model Camry, though, in an effort to justify this higher price.

Toyota however believe that it all stacks up for consumer. “It is a next generation fuel efficient vehicle to help the environment and the hip pockets of Australian motorists,” says Yasuda. “We believe we can best service our customers and society through sustainability in technology, manufacturing and social contributions. Hybrid technology is central to these goals because it provides strong performance, cuts fuel consumption and lowers emissions.”

“We decided to build the Camry Hybrid in Australia because Australians are keenly aware of environmental issues, including global warming,” says Watanabe. “We are confident that the Camry Hybrid will be well received. Toyota intends to make further efforts towards popularising hybrid vehicles.”

Hybrid engines use a regular engine – in the Camry hybrid’s case a four-cylinder petrol engine – and an electric motor that can power the car at low speeds. Hybrids can shut down the petrol engine when coasting down hills and when stopped in traffic to save fuel.

The world’s most popular hybrid, the Toyota Prius, recently delivered one millionth sale and over 9000 have been sold in Australia since their launch a few years ago.

It is worth noting that most Priuses are bought by fleets and governments however, many of which choosing the vehicle for the corporate image such a vehicle brings.

Toyota expects to sell 10,000 hybrid Camrys a year, with corporate and government fleets likely to make up the lion’s share of orders. It will be the fifth hybrid vehicle offered by Toyota and its luxury arm Lexus in Australia. The only other hybrid on sale in Australia is the Honda Civic.

Ford and Holden are both working towards low-emission, fuel efficient variants of their locally built sedans.

Holden group vice president Nick Reilly says a hybrid Commodore will be part of a range of green initiatives undertaken by General Motors worldwide, including LPG, CNG (compressed natural gas) and E85 (a blend of 85 per cent ethanol and 15 per cent petrol).

Ford has confirmed it will offer a diesel engine in its Falcon sedan and Territory soft-roader in 2010.

The race to produce hybrid and diesel vehicles to meet the increaing fuel cost and environmental impact concerns of Australian motorists, will surely make a significant impact on the motoring landscape in Australia. It may also prompt a significant leap by manufacturers towards bringing forward the emission-free motoring technology promised by hydrogen fuel cells.

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