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Toyota launches six electric cars as it backs away from hydrogen

Pruis - Akio Kon/Bloomberg
Pruis - Akio Kon/Bloomberg

Toyota, the world’s biggest car maker, has launched six new electric models in a sign of shifting focus from its previous bet on hydrogen as the green fuel of the future.

It will sell the new plug-ins in Europe by 2026 as part of a plan to comply with targets within the bloc to phase out petrol and diesel sales by 2035.

The company, known for its Prius hybrid, threw its weight behind hydrogen when it launched the Mirai in 2014, a large family car with a range of more than 300 miles.

But the fuel has not enjoyed a wide take up. Despite faster refuelling than for battery cars, hydrogen pumps are few and far between and the gas has been largely confined to buses and other vehicles which return to a base where they refuel each day.

So-called green hydrogen is made by separating water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen using electricity from renewable sources such as wind. This adds an extra step when the same electricity can simply be used to charge a battery, making hydrogen a potentially more expensive solution.

PHEV - Akio Kon/Bloomberg
PHEV - Akio Kon/Bloomberg

It came as data showed that sales of fully electric cars in the UK rose to their highest share of the market this year. Of all cars sold, just over one in five were battery-powered, the highest proportion since December 2021, data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) showed.

Sales of all cars leapt by almost a quarter in November, the fourth consecutive month of annual growth, with plug-in cars including hybrids accounting for more than one in four registrations.

Buyers took home 142,889 cars in November, up from 115,706 a year earlier.

However, registrations are still almost 9pc lower than pre-pandemic levels, with the SMMT warning that challenges will continue throughout next year as the UK is gripped by recession.

It also renewed its warning that slow growth in the number of public charging points could choke off purchases of electric cars.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT, said: “Recovery for Britain’s new car market is back within our grasp, energised by electrified vehicles and the sector’s resilience in the face of supply and economic challenges.

“As the sector looks to ensure that growth is sustainable for the long term, urgent measures are required – not least a fair approach to driving EV adoption that recognises these vehicles remain more expensive, and measures to compel investment in a charging network that is built ahead of need.”

Separately on Monday, data showed that deliveries from Tesla’s factory in Shanghai rose to a record in November after Elon Musk’s company deployed aggressive marketing tactics and promotions in China.

Tesla shipped 100,291 cars in China last month, versus 71,704 in October and almost double the 52,859 vehicles delivered in the same month of 2021, China’s Passenger Car Association said.