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Hybrid car sales propel surge in European alternative-fuel autos

[FRANKFURT] European sales of cars powered by alternative energy sources rose 39 per cent last year as Toyota Motor Corp pushed hybrid models and Renault SA extended the driving range on the latest version of its all-electric Zoe.

Customers bought 953,355 autos that run on systems including batteries, electric-gasoline or -diesel motors, fuel cells or natural gas in 2017, the Brussels-based European Automobile Manufacturers' Association, or ACEA, said Thursday in a statement.

Combined demand for full hybrid cars, which can operate on either conventional fuel or self-charged battery power, and so-called mild hybrids, which use an electric motor to help the combustion engine run more efficiently, surged 52 per cent. Sales of all-electric models jumped 49 per cent.

The growth far outpaced the European car market's 3.3 per cent gain last year, suggesting consumers are warming to the models added by Toyota, Renault and competitors. Still, the alternative systems powered only 6.1 per cent of the 15.6 million autos sold across the region last year, an increase from 4.5 per cent in 2016. Battery-powered cars had a 0.9 per cent market share in 2017.

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European Union regulators are requiring the auto industry to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions from vehicle exhausts to limit greenhouse gases. Customers have been reluctant to buy all-electric autos because of concerns about how long battery recharging takes and the short distances the cars can travel compared with gasoline or diesel models.

Renault improved the Zoe's range on a full charge by 67 per cent to 400 kilometers. Toyota has up to now focused on hybrid technology, and it said in January that sales of the models jumped 38 per cent in Europe last year to account for 41 per cent of its deliveries there.

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