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Congestion Zone spreads west and leads to increase in hybrid sales

As the central London congestion charge zone extends west to take in an even greater slice of the capital, sales of the Toyota Prius in London were up by 135 per cent in January compared to the same month last year.

The Prius is exempt from the daily £8 charge, which means daily commuters into the charging zone can save more than £2,000 a year.

And it’s not just the congestion charge that may encourage greater take-up of the prius and other hybrids – London boroughs and authorities in other parts of the UK are looking at following Richmond council’s lead and raising parking permit charges in line with vehicles’ CO2 output. In Richmond’s case, this means a Prius owner pays six times less to park than the owners of vehicles in the top band.

It’s a message that’s getting through to more motorists than ever before, with sales of the hybrid hatchback reaching record levels in the UK.

January’s sales sustained a momentum that has increased full year figures up by more than a third in 2006, up from 3,745 Prius sales in 2005 to a new record of 5,017 sales.

Powered by a combination of a conventional 1.5-litre petrol engine and a compact, but powerful electric motor, Prius emits just 104g/km of carbon dioxide. And in slow, city centre driving, it can run for distances on electric power alone, reducing its emissions to zero. As the car’s battery is constantly topped up by the engine and energy recovered from the brakes, the Prius is not limited in range like fully electric-powered vehicles and does not have to be parked up for recharging. It’s highly fuel efficient, too, with a combined cycle consumption figure of 65.7mpg.

On-the-road prices for the Toyota Prius start at £17,780 for the T3 model.