When it comes to hybrid technology, Toyota is basically the company that popularized it.
The Prius is the world's best-selling hybrid (as far as we know) and has been in international markets since 1997, spawning the Hybrid Synergy Drive that is now seen in a lot of Toyota and Lexus models.
But there are many markets wherein even Toyota's popular hybrids haven't caught on. Many of these are locations are in our part of the world where electric drive is considered an additional mechanical complication. Moreover, import taxes on it are high, and the electrified infrastructure in our country is very limited or non-existent. That's why it isn't too common to see a Prius on Philippine roads, but Toyota found a way with the Thai-made hybrids such as the Corolla Cross Hybrid and Corolla Altis Hybrid.
Toyota wants to address that disparity even further though, and it seems they're looking at a technology that could finally make hybrid more mainstream in the Philippine market: the E-Smart Hybrid.
About a month ago, it was leaked online that Toyota/Daihatsu was working on a Daihatsu Raize crossover with 1.2-liter three cylinder engine and a new E-Smart Hybrid system. The difference compared to a regular series hybrid like in the Altis/Cross/Prius is that this is more of an assist-type hybrid. Details aren't complete yet, but the E-Smart Hybrid seems to have similarities to what Honda did with their IMA hybrid system (e.g. CR-Z); like a mild hybrid that gives the vehicle an electric-driven boost, but doesn't really take over the propulsion.
The Raize is a Japanese and Indonesian market model though, so what does that hold for us in the Philippines? Well, we just got some from our contacts that are privy to the manufacturing plans of Toyota in the region that they will use the E-Smart Hybrid tech in models that our market is already familiar with.
Our sources have confirmed that Toyota intends to produce E-Smart Hybrid technology in the Toyota Avanza and the Toyota Vios. Both of those models are very popular here; the Avanza is imported from Indonesia, while the Vios is made in Laguna.
If it plays out that way, we could see the next generation Avanza and Vios with these hybrid drive systems. Such a plan is also interesting given the information that Toyota is also working on hybrid drive systems for the Fortuner, Hilux, and Innova, even though there may be delays given the current semiconductor crisis affecting the auto industry.
As to when the models will be available is still unknown, but what we know is that E-Smart Hybrid could be Toyota's cost-effective stepping stone to introduce electrification to customers where EV infrastructure and EV legislation (read: tax breaks) aren't available. Like us.