In 1995, Toyota unveiled a concept car with a hybrid powertrain at the 31st Tokyo Motor Show. Called the Prius, which derived from the Latin prefix meaning “to go before,” the project was led by Takeshi Uchiyamada to develop a car for the 21st century that not only achieved ground-breaking fuel efficiency, but also reduced greenhouse gas emissions and other harmful pollutants in the process.

Two years later, the first-generation Prius was launched in October 1997 as the world’s fist mass-produced hybrid passenger vehicle. Arriving around the time of the Kyoto Protocol signing, which aimed to limit greenhouse gas emissions, the four-door sedan was the right car that gave new momentum to the environmental movement.

It has been more than 25 years since the Prius burst onto the automotive scene, and in that time, Toyota has bolstered its line-up of hybrid electric vehicles significantly. Today, its range (including Lexus models) of cars with a hybrid powertrain now stands at 44.

More significantly, the company managed to hit a new milestone in January this year as it has sold a cumulative 15 million units of such vehicles worldwide. According to the company, its hybrid technology has managed to reduce CO2 emissions by more than 120 million tonnes worldwide to date when compared to sales of equivalent petrol vehicles.

Despite the achievement, Toyota isn’t slowing down and continues to refine its hybrid technology to achieve even lower emissions and ever-better fuel efficiency. Even so, the carmaker does not view hybrids as the only way forward, and has since expanded to provide plug-in hybrid, fuel cell and battery electric vehicles.

“Of course, we must work hard on improving battery performance and lowering costs (of BEVs), which we are doing. But we must avoid having no plan until we overcome the hurdles related to both BEVs and FCEVs. In the meantime, we can contribute by continuing our work on HEVs,” said Shigeki Terashi, chief officer of Toyota Motor Corporation.

Moving forward, Toyota is planning to launch 40 new or updated electrified vehicles by 2025, across all technologies, including at least 10 zero-emission vehicles. Its hybrid electric vehicles will remain a core part of the powertrain mix meeting customers’ needs and helping drive down emissions, reinforcing the ambition that led to the Prius existing more than 20 years ago.