THE MARKET for all-electric and hybrid-electric vehicles is growing. Hybrid cars, in particular, make sense. With full electric mobility you’re always going to be in fear of running out of energy mid journey, in some remote country lane without a plug in sight. Range anxiety has hindered the popularity of electric cars.
Hybrids, on the other hand, have proved popular from the start. They work by essentially using the electric motors to complement the regular petrol or diesel engine to improve mileage or increase power. Toyota and Honda have been in the hybrid race from the start but for 2013 almost all car manufacturers are delivering a hybrid option – even high-performance marques like Ferrari.
The hybrid chapter started with the Toyota Prius. Introduced to Europe at the start of the millennium, this awkwardly-shaped vehicle – the blunt behind is designed for aero efficiency – was a hit in California where the Hollywood elite such as Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio popularised this car to a point where more Prius cars were registered in the US sunshine state last year than any other model.
Now the family includes a Prius V hatchback wagon and a Prius C subcompact hatchback with the family reaching global sales of 3.3 million at the end of 2012 – representing a staggering 71.5% of Toyota hybrid sales, and these figures include its luxury arm Lexus. In the UK it was the number one selling plug-in hybrid electric vehicle sold in 2012.
Of course Toyota wasn’t the first to come up with this clean, green engine. Honda had already released the Insight in 1999 but failed to realize the potential of hybrid cars on a market that was beginning to slowly adapt to cleaner greener driving. They didn’t scream and shout about it as much as Toyota, but nevertheless offer a pretty comprehensive family of hybrids that includes the CR-Z. This quirky, almost futuristic car, upgraded for 2013, visually fits the alternative-fuel badge more than the Prius.
California’s obsession with hybrids relates quite directly to the car’s image, the status and message it brings to the passenger. Who cares if Brad Pit and Angelina Jolie fly off around the world visiting their multiple homes in their private jet as long as they aren’t polluting a Hollywood boulevard? Yet in Europe the reasons could be a little trickier – for city dwellers it could do with the fantastic tax and parking incentives given to hybrid cars.
From this year, however, it looks like electric cars are likely to be the only cars to escape London’s congestion charge. Cars that emit less than 100 grams of CO2/km are exempt from the £10-a-day fee, and this can include small diesel and petrol engine cars. But from July the levels are to be slashed to less than 75g of CO2/km, and currently only full electric and some hybrid cars can achieve this. Will this impact on the sale of hybrids and help boost the electric space? Likely, probably. -Referred from Nargess Shahmanesh Banks.