This year one of our key focusses is promoting greener options to the mass market. After many years of sustainability advocacy, I have come to realise that those in the sustainability movement suffer from being in an ‘eco’ chamber. We live green, we talk green, we connect with other greenies.
Step outside of the bubble, however, and you soon discover that you’ve been wearing green-tinted glasses all along. Mainstream consumers have little idea about eco-friendly product alternatives.
This realisation hit me again when I recently travelled to Sydney for the Toyota Hybrid popup. Hybrid vehicles have been around for over 20 years and still, talking with non-eco minded folk, you’d think that the technology has only just been released! After spending time chatting with people in the community, it became obvious that there are huge knowledge gaps and real confusion about these vehicles.
In an effort to demystify hybrid cars and make them an attractive option to everyday consumers, it makes sense to debunk the common myths surrounding hybrids that stop people from fully appreciating their benefits. Hopefully, this post clears the muddy waters and addresses people’s concerns around these cars.
Myth #1: Hybrids are a new, virtually untested technology.
This is a falsehood. Toyota was the first car manufacturer to pioneer and release the first ever mass-accepted petro-electric hybrid model, the Prius, in 1997! Over the last 20 years, the car manufacturer has helped to replace 10 million conventional vehicles with hybrid cars and continues to be at the forefront of the industry, bringing a range of hybrid cars – Camry Hybrid, RAV4 Hybrid and Highlander Hybrid – to the mainstream consumer. Like renewable energy and sustainable fashion innovations, hybrid vehicle technology has long been embraced as a green solution by sustainability advocates and environmentalists.
Myth #2: Hybrid cars are too complicated to drive.
This is completely false. I’ve had first-hand experience driving a hybrid vehicle and there’s nothing to it at all. You drive the car the same as you would any other vehicle. There’s no difference. If a mechanically-hopeless automatic-only driver like me can drive a hybrid, so can you!
Myth #3: Hybrid cars need to be plugged in.
This is false. Unlike electric vehicles that need to be plugged into a power source to be recharged, hybrid cars don’t need to be. Hybrids run on two power sources, a petrol motor and an electric motor powered by a battery. Because it has a petrol motor, the car still requires fuel to keep it going. But because the electric motor subsidises power, the car needs less fuel. Less fuel means fewer greenhouse gases being emitted into our atmosphere.
Myth #4: Hybrid cars won’t actually help to save the environment.
Kudos to people who don’t own vehicles but for many, particularly those with limited access to reliable public transport or find cycling or walking impractical, hybrid cars are a better option than conventional vehicles.
Fuel-powered vehicles are still responsible for air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions but since hybrid vehicles require less fuel, its impact on the environment is much less than standard vehicles.
Since there is no such thing as a ‘perfect’ sustainable lifestyle and even the most serious of environmentalists have to make trade-offs, a hybrid vehicle is good middle ground for people who need a car.
Myth #5: Hybrid cars are too expensive.
It depends on how you define ‘too expensive’ as it’s dependent on one’s values, earning capacity, lifestyle choices, existing debts and disposable income. However, when you consider what’s available in the marketplace and particularly in the green car marketplace, a new hybrid vehicle is reasonably priced.
In Australia, the starting price for a Toyota Hybrid is $20,150 (not including on road fees and costs) and increases depending on the model and other add-ons. Of course, if you’re not worried about vehicle depreciation, you can always buy a used hybrid vehicle.
Myth #6: Hybrid vehicles are great for fuel economy but not ‘performance’.
Untrue. Since I’ve driven a Camry Hybrid and been a passenger in one when an ex-F1 driver was behind the wheel, the hybrid performed as one expects from a vehicle equipped with smart technology. In fact, the Camry Hybrid exceeds performance expectations because it’s not only environmentally-friendly and helps you save at the fuel pump (because it requires less fuel), but it also has innovative safety features like automatic high beams and an audio alert if you depart from your lane. Different hybrid models come with different features so make sure to read up on them, ask car dealers and read online reviews to get a better grasp of what they are.
Anecdotally, I caught an Uber to Brisbane Airport and a taxi from Sydney Airport to my hotel to make it in time for the start of the hybrid popup, both the Uber and the taxi driver were driving Toyota Hybrids! In peak hour traffic, with heaps of other cars on the road, and in Sydney with pedestrians everywhere, the hybrid cars, a Prius and a Camry Hybrid, maneuvered, accelerated and braked as it should.
If these people – who make their living from driving – trust their hybrid vehicles, there’s no reason why we can’t trust hybrids too.
Myth #7: Hybrids require special maintenance and need more servicing than traditional vehicles.
This is false. A good mechanic should be able to service a hybrid as they would any other vehicle. Hybrids should have reduced maintenance costs because the engine shuts down when the electric motor takes over at idle or low speeds. Of course, during regular maintenance checks, the battery should be checked. Toyota batteries come with an 8-year or 160,000 km warranty (whichever comes first). Like any car ‘part’ that needs replacing, your mechanic should notify you of this when the time comes (or just keep records and monitor yourself if you don’t want to rely on a mechanic).
Buying a hybrid vehicle is a great option for people who need an affordable, eco-friendly car but by no means should this choice be taken to mean that it’s the only way to live sustainably. To further reduce your impact on the environment, the choice of driving a hybrid car should be used in combination with other sustainable lifestyle choices such as buying less consumer goods, reducing meat intake (or embracing veganism), living off-grid, carrying around a zero waste kit, saying no to single-use plastic, growing your own food and offsetting your carbon.
For more information on the Toyota Hybrids, visit www.toyota.com.au/hybrid.
Disclaimer: This post was created in partnership with Toyota Australia. All opinions are held by the author. For more information about our policies, click here.