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Hybrids account for nearly 20 percent of cars in Japan, automobile association says

JIJI

Gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles are rapidly increasing their presence in Japan, partly on the back of growing environmental awareness.

According to the Automobile Inspection & Registration Information Association, the number of hybrid cars registered as of the March 31 end of fiscal 2017, excluding minivehicles, grew 14.8 percent from a year before to 7,512,846 units, with their share in all passenger cars held in Japan rising 2.4 percentage points to 19.0 percent.

The popularity of hybrid vehicles has continued growing since Toyota Motor Corp. released the Prius, the first mass-produced hybrid model in Japan, in 1997, thanks to their high fuel economy and environmental friendliness.

The number of hybrid cars topped 1 million for the first time at the end of fiscal 2010 and nearly doubled in the past four years, according to the association.

Electric vehicles are also increasingly popular.

The number of electric cars held in the country at the end of fiscal 2017, excluding minivehicles, jumped 24.5 percent to 91,359 units, supported by an increase in charging stations, although their market share is still low, at 0.2 percent as of March 31.

A number of countries are seen moving to tighten their environmental regulations on automobiles, with Britain and France planning to ban sales of gasoline and diesel vehicles by 2040.

As zero-emission electric vehicles are expected to become a mainstream in the electrified vehicle markets abroad, observers are watching whether the use of such vehicles will increase further in Japan as well.