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How Does the Green Machine Roll on?

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NOT so long ago the Toyota Prius was the only option available to environmentally conscious car renters in their bid to fly the “green” flag. But in the words of a legendary singer/songwriter, those times are “a-changing”.

Much has happened since the Prius reached Australian shores in 2000, but the choice of “affordable” hybrids has broadened only marginally with Honda’s Civic and the much-vaunted release of Toyota’s Camry Hybrid in February.

Rental companies traditionally have kept the Prius as their green vehicle of choice and this is still very much in vogue. However, the popularity of the Camry brand and its larger capacity will drive change within rental green fleets. Only Hertz offers the Hybrid Camry on their books, but watch this space as other rental companies come into play in the near future.

As the Hybrid show rolls on, manufacturers of traditional carbon-fuelled vehicles have not merely been sitting idle. A new generation of small compact cars has emerged to dominate the Low Carbon Emission charts and become increasingly popular on the world’s roads. In fact, a quick glance at the Australian Government’s Green Vehicle Guide website (www.greenvehicleguide.gov.au) reveals that of the Top 10 Performer spots only two, the Prius and Camry Hybrid, are hybrid-based. All the other vehicles are 100% petrol-based.

Before we get too carried away with the idea that petrol vehicles “out-green” the hybrids, there are those little matters of engine and vehicle size to consider. The non-hybrid entries in the Top 10 Green list all have smaller engines than their Hybrid cousins and all are smaller cars. Interestingly, the popular Volkswagen Golf Trendview has emerged recently to slip into ninth position right behind the Hybrid Camry, and another 1.4-litre vehicle to hit the Top 10 is Alfa’s Mito. However, the top end of the Top 10 is dominated by small cars with the smallest engines; in fact, No.2 on the list is one of the world’s smallest cars, Mercedes Smart Fortwo, with a 1-litre engine and room for 2 and no more.

This engine and vehicle size does appear to limit their appeal in Australia. This is evident when you switch across and view the greenvehicleguide’s top 10 best sellers list, headed by the Holden Commodore at a commendable 4 stars – given we are talking about a 6 speed 3 litre full size family vehicle. The rest of the top 10 is dominated by 3 to 3.5 star vehicles with only the Toyota Yaris at number 10 coming in with 5 stars and sharing a top 10 ranking in both best Performers and best Sellers.

Clearly we have some way to go before these 2 top 10 lists overlap and it’s likely that the addition of the Camry Hybrid will go some way towards that in broadening the appeal of the Hybrid offering in family sized vehicles; however the price differential between Hybrid and pure petrol based cars still present challenges and this price difference is equally present in the rental market. It will be interesting to see whether the novelty in renting the new Camry Hybrid translates into a long term love affair with Australia’s travelling public. On a broader theme whether the Camry can become the first Hybrid to crack Australia’s top 20 best seller list remains to be seen.

DriveNow enables you to compare pricing on car and campervan rental across Australia and New Zealand. You can book the Toyota Camry Hybrid and other Hybrid rental vehicles by visiting www.drivenow.com.au.

ChrisC
DriveNow Partner and sometime Blog Contributor

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