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Toyota hits a green milestone with its 10 millionth hybrid sale

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Hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and all-electric vehicles may only account for 4 percent of the global market today, but this could more than triple by 2023.

Sales of Toyota’s hybrid cars show no sign of hitting the brakes as the Japanese car giant this week announced it’s now sold more than 10 million of its environmentally friendly motors worldwide.

The company reached the milestone at the end of January, nearly 20 years after it first deployed the technology in the Coaster Hybrid EV minibus in August, 1997. The popular Prius model — the world’s first mass-produced hybrid passenger car – hit Japanese roads in December of the same year, before coming to the United States in 2000.

“When we launched Prius, no one even knew what a hybrid was,” said Toyota chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada, a man popularly known as the father of Prius for his pioneering work on the technology. “Those who drove it were called geeks or other names. Today, thanks to those early adopters who gave Prius a chance, hybrids have grown in popularity, and have ridden a wave of success out of the unknown and into the mainstream.”

Car buyers around the world appear to be showing a growing interest in Toyota’s gas-electric fuel savers, with the company noting that more than 10 percent of the sales came in the last 12 months.

In the U.S. alone, the car manufacturer saw sales of its hybrids and plug-in hybrids reach a cumulative total of more than 3 million units as of December 31, 2016. Meanwhile, Japan remains Toyota’s biggest market for cars incorporating the green technology.

More: Digital Trends’ pick of the best hybrid cars you can buy

Going by its own data, the Japanese automaker said that the use of its hybrid vehicles — as an alternative to regular gasoline-powered automobiles of similar size and driving performance — has resulted in around 77 million fewer tons of CO2 emissions and saved about 7.66 billion gallons of gasoline (29 million kiloliters).

At the current time, the company has 33 different Toyota and Lexus hybrid models on the market in more than 90 countries and regions.

Looking at all automakers, research firm JATO Dynamics estimates that global sales of alternative vehicles — such as hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and all-electric — will increase to 11 million by 2023, taking 14.2 percent of the overall market, up from around 4 percent today.