Already known for its wide range of hybrids, Toyota has committed to producing 18 new or reworked models in an effort to decrease its fleet average carbon dioxide emissions. The move will help the company meet tighter regulations and reduce the amount of taxes its customers must pay on their cars.

The goal is to expand the proportion of cars it sells that emit less than 140g/km of CO2. Last year 30% of Toyota's European sales fell below that mark, up 5% from 2006, reports Automotive News. Average CO2 emissions for the company's European operations in 2007 were 149g/km.

The EU's most recent regulations bring the mandatory fleet averages down to just 130g/km by 2012, with fines starting at €20 for each g/km CO2 in excess of the target amount. Fines will rise to €95 per g/km CO2 by 2016 under the plan.

Combined with the recently announced mandates for ESP and tire rolling resistance, EU cars will soon be legislated into becoming the most technologically advanced - and most expensive - market in the world.

Toyota is certain the new standards will significantly increase compliance costs for the manufacturers, but thinks it's still too early to know how much of the costs will be passed on to the consumer. unfortunately, barring massive government grants - themselves paid by the taxpayers, many of whom are motorists - history has shown that the costs will almost certainly be passed directly to the consumer.