Dear Reader, before you begin reading what is probably a long diatribe against hybrid cars, you might want to consider reading something else. You’ve been warned.
I like cars. They like me. I care for them. They care for me. We’re kindred souls, if you will. I understand cars.
Or so I thought, until I drove a Hybrid.
But we’re jumping the gun here. Folks who like are petrol heads like me may skip the intro I’m about to give. The non-petrol heads who think a car has four doors, four wheels and an engine may like to expand their knowledge on the varieties available.
There are two kids – one is the slightly dodo-istic, brawny athlete who gobbles food by the ton and belches in public but is a reliable, dependable kind of chappie. This kid is the combustion engine based car that we grew up with and know and love for all its idiosyncrasies and foibles.
The other is the smart one. It uses a variety of gizmos and witchcraft which tend to leave you amazed when things go right but the thing is – you understand very little of what it is doing and all you do is take care of it and hope it takes care of you. This is the hybrid, a combination of electric motors, batteries and an itsy-bitsy engine and while they say it is a brilliant machine that is gentle on the eco-system and the trees, I have my doubts.
Before the other petrol heads bash me for forgetting the third variety which everyone hates, let me assure you, fellow petrol heads, that I am ignoring the all electric cars. Living in Pakistan, we barely have enough electricity to power our homes and electric cars here – well, no one cares for the idea here. Plus, I’ve driven the toy electric cars and they’ve left me a bit leery of them – A car is supposed to make some sort of noise in movement and sound of merely tires on a road is a bit disturbing to say the least.
Coming back to our topic. Me, being a petrol head, grew up with and love the former. The world, however, has different ideas and loves the latter because they perceive it to be better in all aspects. Aha. No, they are most emphatically not.
Unless you happen to own a hybrid like a McLaren P1, a Porsche 918 or a Ferrari LaFerrari, that is. In that case, please offer me a job – I will clean them for you. I’ll be your general handy-man too.
But I digress. Ahem.
The internal combustion engine uses petrol. Or if you’re a little more environmentally concerned, you probably have a diesel. Or any other varieties of eco-fuels like bio-ethanol, CNG, etc. Some engines are naturally aspirated. Nearly every car is naturally aspirated. Others use forced induction. Turbo and superchargers – they force pre-compressed air to increase power and lower CO2 levels and are used in smaller engines or in performance cars or motorsport like rallies and such. The electronics in these cars – and I’m talking modern cars, not cars from the 70’s and 80’s that I adore – are usually limited to the management of auxiliary systems like braking, cooling, fuel management and other inane stuff and the engine is just the powerhouse to propel the car.
The hybrid is a bit tricky. It uses an internal combustion engine too. Albeit a small-ish one. With a turbo. (Yeah, turbo it is – superchargers are for the big boys) It also uses a couple of electric motors. These are run by batteries. Which are charged by the engine, so the engine is actually both an engine and a generator. Best example of a Hybrid? The popular Toyota Prius. (Ugh, that ugly thing) Up to a certain speed, the engine is off and the motors do the job of moving the car. As soon as you cross that speed or use up the batteries, the engine coughs apologetically to life and you have it doing both tasks of powering the car and charging up those pesky batteries. You’ve probably realized by now at least one thing.
Hybrids are slow. Very, very slow. Sure they do get better miles to the gallon but only in city driving conditions. They are also expensive to buy and maintain. The batteries need replacement after a certain number of charge cycles. The engine needs maintenance. The motors need maintenance. The regular car only needs engine maintenance. Regular cars are faster. Hybrids are not. Regular cars weigh less. Hybrids weigh more. (Pick up a box of regular AA batteries and a blender at the same time and you’ll know why.) The list is endless. Benefits? Better mileage, which is all that there is.
The greatest loss? You cannot take a hybrid to do racing. Unless, of course you own the aforementioned exotica. I repeat my offer for gainful employment again, in case you missed it the first time. A regular car can be bought, modded up and taken to track-days. Try modding a hybrid. Go on, I dare you.
In fact, even the exotica I mentioned earlier are still not really a match for the internal combustion exotica as yet. Sure, they’re very good, brilliant. Still, not fast enough. Try racing a 918 against a One:1 or even an Agera for that matter – the 918 will be trying to catch up and the Agera will be somewhere past the horizon. Fact. There is a video up on youtube if you’re interested.
I rest my case.