Hybrid car sales more than triple

A total of 1,731 hybrid cars were sold in 2007, up from 493 in 2006

A total of 1,731 hybrid cars were sold in 2007, up from 493 in 2006, the Environmental Protection Ministry said Wednesday. Sales have grown steadily since 2004, when the tax was dropped significantly. Only 130 hybrids were acquired in 2005 and just 10 in 2004. A further sign that sales are beginning to take off is that 506 hybrids were bought in the first two months of this year alone, bringing the total number of hybrids on the road to 2,870. The vehicles' potential has been so high that Environmental Protection Minister Gideon Ezra has approached Honda and Toyota, the manufacturers, asking them to increase the number of cars imported into Israel. Toyota responded by promising to increase inventory by 18 percent. Ezra also turned to the Taxi Drivers Association and urged them to start buying hybrid cars since they are ideal for intra-city travel. Hybrid cars have two motors - one regular internal combustion and one electric. When starting and stopping, the electric motor alone powers the car, which significantly reduces emissions. Hybrid cars have 30%-50% less emissions than a car with a similar size engine. According to the ministry's estimates, the nearly 3,000 hybrid cars on the road save 3,800 tons of CO2 emissions a year, about 1,500 kilograms of nitrogen oxide, 1,400 kg. of hydrocarbon and 6,200 kg. of carbon monoxide, compared to a similar number of regular cars. Avid Moshe, deputy head of the ministry's air quality branch, attributed the dramatic rise to the tax break, increased environmental awareness and the rising cost of gasoline. Hybrid sales are only a minuscule portion of Israeli automotive sales. According to the Vehicle Importers Union, Israelis bought 191,121 vehicles in 2007, including hybrids. The cars cost approximately NIS 150,000 each.