Hybrid Cars Become a Reality: A Case Study

Bimal has been raving about hybrid cars ever since he came back from the Geneva Motorshow earlier this year. As a journalist specialising in motoring, he has been waiting for the first real eco-friendly cars to become available. “We are now just on the brink of a new era in motoring – hybrid cars, cars that run exclusively on biodiesel, electric cars and solar cars – some are with us already and the rest could all be just around the corner,” he enthuses.

Hybrid cars combine lithium polymer batteries and a liquid petroleum gas (LPG) engine in the same car. In some situations, the electric power is used – for example in city driving. The petrol engine is used more for motorway driving. “Currently, most hybrids can do about 40 miles in electric power mode before the cells need recharging – this will hopefully be extended in the future and there should also be more places to ‘re-fuel’ in the years to come,” explains Bimal.

Hybrid cars have become a reality – and have been on sale already, particularly in the USA since the late 1990s. The Toyota Prius is the best-selling model at the moment, and has sold over a million since it was first launched in 1997. Its a standard looking family car and is perfect for city and town driving. “The newer models look very stylish and, from the outside you wouldn’t know they were hybrids at all,” says Bimal.

But the newer cars showcased at Geneva are a bit like designer outfits on the catwalk – they are trend setters and deliberately go out of their way to demonstrate just how futuristic and fantastic hybrid cars can be.

The Hybrid X Concept

On display at Geneva was the Hybrid X concept. This is a futuristic looking hybrid car made by Toyota that has been deliberately designed to be instantly recognisable. “If you go for a hybrid car, you need to make a statement about it and you need everyone to know that you have backed this new, more eco-friendly move in motoring,” says Bimal. The style is meant to be attractive and to capture the attention, but it also incorporates a very aerodynamic shape, which further improves fuel efficiency.

More Futuristic Hybrids

One of the most stunning cars that Bimal saw at the motorshow was a hybrid car by Italdesign Guigiaro. “You expect style from Italian designers and this car absolutely oozes style. Its also really racy for a hybrid – it does zero to 60 miles per hour in only 4 seconds and it can get up to speeds in excess of 180 miles per hour. Most amazingly, it has a petrol engine that, thanks to the electric hybrid propulsion system, does around 117 miles to the gallon of petrol. It does cost around £75 000 though,” smiles Bimal.

Newly released Hyundai Hybrid

Bimal has been keeping a close eye on how things have been developing since the Geneva show and was interested in the launch of the first hybrid car to be released commercially in the US by Hyundai, in July 2009. “This is a hybrid form of a well-known small car, the Avante, also called the Elantra. Unlike some of the larger hybrids, its reasonably priced at around £10 000 and its already popular in South East Asia,” says Bimal.

Most car manufacturers in the world are now developing hybrid models and the Toyota Prius won the WhatGreenCar? Car of the Year award for 2009. “What people like about the Prius is that it gives great fuel consumption – around 72 miles to the gallon and it has very low levels of carbon dioxide emissions. But in the UK, we maybe more likely to buy the hybrid Ford Fiesta – the ECOnetic. That’s a great car and could be up for awards in the next couple of years,” predicts Bimal.