10 December 2021

Is the hybrid a quick-fix for Australia's current EV issues?

| James Coleman
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Toyota Hybrid

A hybrid blends a petrol engine with an electric motor. Photo: James Coleman.

The ACT might have the highest number of electric vehicles per capita of any state or territory, but they made up just over 1 per cent of new car sales so far this year.

Upfront cost may be one reason people aren’t rifling through the couch cushions for the cash to buy an EV just yet, but Australia’s ‘boundless plains’ certainly don’t help.

Canberra to Melbourne? It’ll take a lot longer than seven hours (even including rest time).

Couple the sheer distances with a dismal number of public charging stations and the life of an EV owner at the moment can begin to look quite inconvenient.

Could the ‘hybrid’ be a safer bet for the here and now?

READ ALSO I lived with an EV for a weekend and it was … stressful

Canberra Toyota Dealer Principal Mirko Milic says the now rampant technology represents a best-of-both-worlds solution to Australia’s current EV situation.

“If you don’t want the hassle of not being able to drive to Sydney and back in a day without stress, you go hybrid. You’re still saving fuel and making a reduction in your emissions,” he says.

Under the bonnet of the Toyota Kluger Hybrid. Photo: James Coleman.

The Canberra market seems to agree too, with 8.6 per cent of the cars sold between January and November this year fitting under the hybrid umbrella.

The Japanese car brand Toyota pioneered fitting an electric motor alongside a standard internal-combustion engine as far back as 1997. The result was the Prius – the world’s top-selling hybrid with total sales worldwide of more than 4 million units.

Since then, the Toyota boffins have continued to polish and perfect the technology to the point that now, not only is it hard to find a model in their range that isn’t available as are stila hybrid, but it’s also nigh impossible to spot the moment the petrol engine kicks in.

Hybrids start purely under electrical power, which for me – at the wheel of the new, hefty, seven-seat Kluger Hybrid – translates to an uncanny turn of speed. Plant your foot or exceed 40 km/h and only then will you detect a bit of noise coming from the front.

Toyota Kluger Hybrid

The new seven-seat Toyota Kluger Hybrid, in top-of-the-range ‘Grande’ form. Photo: James Coleman.

Deploy the brakes or cruise down a hill and the energy that would usually be lost in heat and noise is diverted to charge the battery.

“Nothing is wasted,” Mirko says. “It is constantly harvesting everything.”

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Even if you can’t feel it, you can see all this happening. The Kluger Hybrid swaps a conventional rev counter for a dial divided into three sections, one blue, one green and the largest is white. The needle is in the blue segment when the battery is being charged, in the green when only electricity is involved, and white once the petrol engine chimes in.

Toyota owns up to 90 per cent of the hybrid market, followed by its posher sibling, Lexus. But another type of hybrid, primarily produced by Mitsubishi, takes the concept a step closer to electric vehicles.

The Kluger’s ‘EV Mode’ tries the keep the petrol engine off for as long as possible. Photo: James Coleman.

A Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) is equipped with a larger electric motor and battery pack, good for up to 100 km of pure electric range before the petrol engine has to think about starting. As the name suggests, a PHEV can also be plugged into a wall to recharge.

While a conventional hybrid system like the one in the Kluger is touted to almost halve the bill at the bowser, a plug-in hybrid could see a single tank of fuel last for weeks as you gad about town with daisies popping up out of the exhaust pipes.

Toyota might have a grand total of zero fully electric cars in their current range, but there are ambitious plans afoot to have up to 70 models as soon as 2025. However, in times past, they have seemed to adopt a more ‘steady on’ approach when it comes to EVs.

For instance, they have argued that when you take the whole lifecycle of an EV into consideration, from the mining of the materials used in the battery to the recycling of those same materials later on, a hybrid can, in fact, return a lower life cycle emissions figure.

“EVs won’t really win the race until there is more renewable energy, and we’re talking a heck of a lot more renewable energy,” Mirko says.

Seeing eye to eye. Photo: James Coleman.

Hybrids might be beginning to make an awful lot of sense at this point, but there is a catch.

The petrol Kluger Grande comes in at about $69,000 before on-road costs, whereas my hybrid starts from $75,000.

In a double whammy, this also enters the realms of Luxury Car Tax (LCT), which also means the ACT’s stamp-duty exemption vaporises. This exemption is only in place for those green vehicles that come in under the LCT threshold.

Nevertheless, Mirko says the price difference continues to drop as time goes on and that if you play your cards right, the difference can be as little as $1,500 for the Camry and Corolla models. As for life after that, the Kluger Hybrid consumes a claimed 5.6 litres of fuel every 100 km, just over half the petrol model. That’ll pay for itself fairly quickly … and you don’t have to carry an extension cord.

The Grande scores plenty of leather and wood inside. Photo: James Coleman.

2021 Toyota Kluger Grande Hybrid

  • $79,182 driveaway
  • 2.5-litre inline-4 and electric motor, 184 kW combined
  • Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), all-wheel drive (AWD)
  • 5.6 litres / 100 km (95 RON)
  • 5-star ANCAP safety rating.

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A Nonny Mouse5:01 pm 16 Dec 21

Toyota’s non-plug-in hybrids were a great and innovative idea in the 1990s. Plug-in hybrids addressed a problem with pure Battery EVs (BEV) a decade ago (eg. Holden/Chevy Volt and Mitsubishi Outlander). Buying a hybrid now is like getting compact fluoros in the age of LEDs. Toyota are seriously in danger of missing the boat on BEVs when they should have had a natural advantage.
I have driven over 800km in a day in my 2019 Hyundai Kona electric car – Coffs Harbour to Canberra. It took me no longer than I would have taken in a petrol car despite a range of about 425km on the highway. We started fully charged from overnight on our motel’s AC charger. Every few hours, I plugged into a fast DC charger while my passengers and I had necessary stops for toilet, coffee, leg-stretching or meal breaks.
During each of four breaks, we got partial charges, never to 100%. Added together, they were the equivalent of a full charge without taking any extra time out of our trip. Charging slows down above 80% so it is better to get back on the road and get another partial charge during the next break. We have no ‘range anxiety’, only range confidence.

I’m not clear what you are talking about. I’ve just returned from a trip to Melbourne and back in my Tesla. The infrastructure to recharge is all there and with the few EVs on the road it is waiting ready for me as I pull in for a free “tank”. (Tesla gave me 1,500 free Kms and the NRMA are currently giving anyone free Kms)
Another thing I don’t understand is why, in a city with 100% clean renewable electricity, I should buy a car that runs on 100% dirty inefficiently-generated-using-petrol electricity.
Oh, and finally, there’s the jaw dropping power. You’ve never enjoyed a trip up the Clyde till you’ve done it in an EV. Notch it back into 2nd and thrash the rings out of it? Nup! Just put your foot gently down and enjoy the surge.

Capital Retro8:28 am 14 Dec 21

“….in a city with 100% clean renewable electricity….”

Where is that fabled city?

“Enjoy the surge”? Sounds like an election jingle.

A Nonny Mouse5:04 pm 16 Dec 21

Yep. Even towing our camper trailer with our electric Hyundai Kona, not a Tesla, we have no trouble keeping up on Clyde Mountain.

Why buy a petrol-driven car? Simply because they are 50% of the purchase price. When an EV can be purchased for under $30,000 then you might see people making the swap, but not everyone is willing or able to fork out $50k for a small hatch or $80k+ for something that actually holds passengers.

The real environmental change will come when government allows all public servants to work from home full time. No emissions if you don’t drive.

We have a Kona EV and driven to Melbourne. Yes we has to plan our stops, so coincided them with safe travelling practices and managed to recharge well. We are planning trips to Sydney, which will require one charge – to be cautious – however achievable. This article came across as a sponsored promotion, which is concerning. Full EV still has a way to go in Australia with more charge sites required. Please readers be open minded about EV cars.

Capital Retro2:57 pm 13 Dec 21

It’s a bit late to be open minded about EVs because the government has decided that they will happen no matter what and this means they will throw heaps of our money at them to meet their idealistic goals.

Isn’t it a bit like “climate change”? Any possibility of being “open minded” about that was shut down by mandating that “the science is settled”.

Oh, and look how much money has been thrown at “climate change action” and what has happened? Nothing has happened , that’s what.

Capital Retro,
That’s got to be one of your best.

I also can’t believe we don’t keep a more open mind that we aren’t really living in a computer simulation. I mean we all could be in the Matrix.

How dare our policy makers base their positions on the available evidence, they should just keep an “open mind” and do nothing.

Oh except when I agree with them. Then they shouldn’t listen to anyone else.

A Nonny Mouse5:11 pm 16 Dec 21

When every relevant scientific research institute worldwide has critically examined the diverse lines of evidence and found that they all point consistently to the same conclusion, it takes a certain excess of confidence in one’s own abilities to remain sceptical on global warming and consequent climate change. There is the oft-quoted warning to not be so open minded that your brain falls out.

Tom Worthington11:05 am 13 Dec 21

Unfortunately experience shows that many plug in hybrid cars are rarely plugged in. As a result the heavy battery has to be carried around powered by fossil fuel. https://theicct.org/publications/phev-real-world-usage-sept2020

Is this a sponsored article and if so, why is it not disclosed?

Finagen_Freeman2:45 pm 13 Dec 21

No. It’s just Canberra Toyota Dealer Principal Mirko Milic and James Coleman are old mates.

Did I say Toyota?
Oops silly Kluger!

Yes, absolutely!

A Hybrid reduces CO2 emissions 50% with zero demand on the electrical infrastructure.

A PHEV if plugged in overnight charges off a standard 2kW wall socket and it’s 50 kms battery only range is more than enough for the average daily commute with 99% CO2 reductions, plus no range anxiety for the occasional weekend junket.

Plus negotiate a deal and your (PH)EV could cost you no more than a normal ICE vehicle: I paid $37K drive away on a model run out deal for a brand new Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, charged off my solar PV and not used more than 90 litres of E10 in these last 15 months (the ICE kicks in once in a while to keep it in tune) and 12,000 kms.

PHEVs are the best of both worlds – zero CO2 and zero range anxiety. Definitely the best way to drop our emissions without a massive infrastructure build of High Energy and expensive EV charging stations.

Capital Retro8:10 am 13 Dec 21

How often does the ICE oil have to be changed?

I’m not sure whether your enthusiasm for the PHEV is clouding some of the facts?

A PHEVs can really only be zero CO2 if the ICE engine is not used AND the battery is recharged from zero CO2 electricity.
Eliminating range anxiety is a big plus for the PHEV, but the car is designed to do that by using the ICE engine, which of course produces CO2 emissions.

I think it fair to say that an PHEV can reduce CO2 emissions, dependant on use, but that’s as far as I’d go.

I like the concept of EVs and PHEVs but we’re not there yet with the EVs and because PHEVs also have an ICE engine, you still have the ICE maintenance to attend to. Battery life and price issues aside, I think I’ll wait for the electrical infrustructure improvements before considering an EV

Capital Retro5:21 pm 13 Dec 21

Wow, all that knowledge and insight KB but you forgot to tell me about oil changes.

Capital Retro,
Good to see you pointing out the much higher maintenance costs of ICE vehicles compared to EVs.

A Nonny Mouse5:15 pm 16 Dec 21

We had a second had Holden Volt PHEV for a couple of years as a stopgap before buying a long range BEV in 2019. It was clever about keeping track of the amount of time the engine is used. It had been recently serviced when we bought it and showed ‘85% oil life remaining’. Two years later it was 45%.

For those traveling distances, diesels might be a better option. They are 14% more fuel efficient, produce less CO2 and have more torque at lower revs than the equivalent traditional petrol powered cars.

IMO, Toyota’s Hybrids are great but their value (and their economy) is really built on their city driving.

I’m not surprised that the Dealer Principal would be talking up the Hybrid product, but it’s coming time for Toyota to look beyond the Hybrid, otherwise they’ll be left behind.

Capital Retro10:26 pm 12 Dec 21

….and you don’t have to buy a new battery costing thousands every 5 – 10 years.

A Nonny Mouse5:20 pm 16 Dec 21

That was just the early Nissan Leafs that lacked battery management features of other brands. I expect decades of use from my Hyundai BEV battery. Teslas and the GM Volt batteries from almost a decade ago are still going strong at high milage despite less good chemistry than manufacturers can get now. This was due to good battery management built in. Even the car I converted in 2009 was still going fine when I sold it in 2018.

…”whereas my hybrid starts from $75,000″ Going green massacres your wallet

That is just one more reason for keeping our 2015 Model Year 2.5L Subaru Forester (which has just reached 80,000 km) until it’s more expensive to maintain than replace, which will take a decade or two more! It may well outlive use and go to one of our sons. We are in our 70s, don’t drive much, and started reducing our carbon foot-print in 1981, and have since done more. Hint? Unlike cars, homes chew energy 24/7/365.
So, James, when did YOU start reducing your carbon foot-print?

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