Finally there’s a hybrid car Australians will want to own
When electric cars became an unlikely election issue earlier this year, hybrids were forgotten in the frenzy.
Bill Shorten's pipedream to have half the new-car fleet be electric by 2030 was met with government warnings that the Labor Party was coming after tradies' utes.
As with most political debates, common sense lay somewhere in the middle.
And that middle ground is hybrids. They aren't cutting edge tech - the Prius arrived in local showrooms way back in 2001 - but they are a logical stepping stone in the journey from petrol cars to electric ones.
The current crop of mainstream EVs are too expensive and too flawed to have mainstream appeal.
The two cheapest, the Hyundai Ioniq and Nissan Leaf, cost roughly $20,000 more than an equivalent petrol-powered car and have less than half the range. If you run out of charge, a jerry can won't cut it.
That's why, at the moment, electric cars make up roughly one-half of a per cent of the new car market, if you include Tesla sales (the maker doesn't publish figures).
But that figure is misleading because it includes "electric vehicles" that come with petrol engines attached. Plug-in EVs typically travel a short distance (up to 50km) on electric power before switching to petrol.
You can't drag people kicking and screaming into new technology. It has to be their choice.
Toyota's hybrid RAV4 SUV deserves our Car of the Year accolade because it's the right car at the right time - an SUV that doesn't cost the earth in more ways than one. Consumers have responded: waiting lists soon after its launch stretched out to six months.
It's in demand because the numbers add up for buyers. The hybrid is $2500 more than the equivalent petrol version of the RAV4 but in the city, where most people do most of their driving, it uses roughly half the petrol. If you drive the national average of about 15,000km a year, that will save you about $1100 a year.
Unlike EVs, there are no sacrifices compared with a petrol car.
Electric vehicles will eventually make sense and when they do, people will buy them. Tesla's new Model 3 is very close to reaching that point, although at $70,000 on the road it's still expensive.
For now, if Australia wants to reduce its average vehicle emissions, both sides of politics should be putting pressure on Toyota to build a hybrid version of Australia's best-selling vehicle, the HiLux. That would keep the tradies and the greenies happy.
Richard Blackburn is News Corp Australia News360's national motoring editor.