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TOYOTA might be reeling from the recall of almost 8 million cars internationally, but yesterday in Port Melbourne, the car maker's local operations launched Australia's first locally built, petrol-electric car - the Hybrid Camry.

From $36,990, plus on-road costs, it costs $7000 more than the cheapest Camry. On Toyota's figures, motorists would need to own the car for almost a decade before the premium price is recovered in fuel savings.

Under the familiar Camry panels lurks an electric motor, a suitcase-sized 244-cell nickel metal hydride battery pack, mated to a 2.4-litre petrol four-cylinder engine. The car can run on battery-electric power alone for short distances before the petrol engine teams to provide extra power, range and recharging.

The electrical boost means Toyota's hybrid Camry sips just six litres of fuel per 100 kilometres on the official combined cycle, and is the most fuel-efficient car made in Australia.

The car's carbon dioxide emissions are similarly low, at 142 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre, compared with a regular automatic Camry that pumps out 208 grams per kilometre.

Fuel consumption is about a third less than Holden's Commodore (9.3 litres) and Ford's Falcon (9.9 litres). Consumption is even less than some small cars, such as the highest-selling small car, the Mazda3 (7.9 litres), and even Toyota's own Corolla (7.3 litres).

source: theage

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