I used to loath hybrid cars. I still hate some of them. It was easy to do because in the old days of hybrids, the Toyota Prius was the only decent-ish (and I use the term loosely here) hybrid car, using electrical assistance solely for acceleration. The Prius was, and still is, the domain of the kind of driver who was simultaneously so convinced of their superiority, yet possessed the driving skills of an apocalyptically blind moron. Moreover, a Prius is a Toyota, which also means it is a pile of crapola.
Then, in 2008, to much fanfare, General Motors announced the first proper hybrid; the Volt. Primarily an electric car, it had enough range to get you to work and back. But it also came equipped with a petrol engine that would charge the battery on long journeys. But around town, it was enough to just plug it into the mains for a feed every night. This, I thought, was the first step towards the future of automotive powertrains. Gone was the issue of charging batteries for hours on end on long journeys. You could do it on the fly in the Volt.
It seems that everyone agrees that the plugin hybrid, of which the Volt is the first type on the market, is indeed the best of both worlds. You get the certainty of being able to travel long distances and the economic advantage of using less petrol around town. It seems everyone agrees. All the major car companies are now experimenting with this technology, but it seems that true mass adoption is years away because of cost. Here in Australia, the Volt is about $60,000, which is quite a lot of coin for a small car. Then again, if you are spending the population average of $80 per week on petrol, you could well be saving up to $4,000 a year on fuel alone. That’s nothing to sneeze at.
But, you say, practical hybrids are great, but they’re not the devices make me excited for the future. The exciting and fast cars that are coming out soon, though, do. First, there’s always the Porsche 918 and McLaren P1. In fact, Porsche has quite a few hybrids running around already and their implementation is possibly the best of the performance car lot. You see, Porsche likes all-wheel drive, and what better way to use an electric motor than to use it to drive wheels that the petrol engine isn’t taking care of already? You get the extra power no matter what and the added benefit of fine, digital control for when you need to carve up the unsuspecting Prius driver in front. Or, even better, a nice, secluded mountain pass somewhere.
All of these cars make the Prius seem old fashioned and basic. In much the same way that a modern assault rifle makes a bloke with a bow and arrow old fashioned and basic. It’s actually quite astounding how quickly technology has moved. Toyota, which was once at the forefront of hybrid technology now finds itself behind and needing to catch up. There was once a time when I was sad about the imminent mass arrival of hybrids. But now, I’m not. I’m looking forward to what technology can do for us in the future and how much better driving could be once we’ve mastered this new fangled gizmo. Just don’t try to sell me a Prius.