After years of diesel dominance, petrol-electric hybrid cars are set to thrive in Europe, believes Toyota Motor Europe vice president Alain Uyttenhoven – and it’s the environment and emissions that will drive the shift.
Diesels sales have grown dramatically over the past decade because of a legislative focus on CO2 emissions. “It’s easy to measure,” said Uyttenhoven.
But “cars have now reached a certain level of CO2 – the next big discussion will be NOx particles, and these are far more damaging to humans.”
It is here where diesels will struggle.
“The cost of purifying diesel cars will add to their costs – and some cities such as Paris are actually taking about banning diesels from the city centre within the next two to three years.
“Hybrids are the next stage solution.”
The fact diesels only dominate within Europe also doesn’t help them, said Uyttenhoven. Outside Europe, diesel is almost irrelevant. “It seems like I’m coming from Mars when I talk about diesel with colleagues from other countries.”
Even factors such as commonplace stop-start is not helping diesel. “Diesels vibrate when they start back up, and people don’t like this.” Hybrids, in contrast, generally run on electric at low speeds – “a test we ran a few years ago found city centre driving was 50% EV mode”.
However, despite Lexus’ newfound advantage in not having a diesel car in its range, the brand is not going to engage in negative marketing to highlight its environmental benefits. “We’re not going to go finger-pointing at diesels – rather, we simply want to be see as a strong alternative to those who may wish to exchange a diesel car for hybrid.”