Product Review: hybrid vehicles

Angels led by Donkeys: is plug-in hybrid vehicle performance still presenting a ‘race to the bottom’ for todays’ drivers in terms of enjoyment?

Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid: although finally a step in the right direction and despite powered and energy-recovery flywheel hybrid IC engine developments led by 2014-5 Formula One motor racing, the driving feel remains remote and the driving experience cold and clinical.

Crankshaft

The author has been developing an alternative hybrid driving system that offers improved feel and enjoyment 

Brief history: a petrol-head’s guide

The race for alternative fuels

1990s: following on from fuel price-hikes from the previous decade, alternative fuels began to be explored with bio-fuels and LPG being pioneered as alternative dual-fuel options where your car boot was effectively sacrificed to carry the LPG in bulky pressurized cylinders above the fuel tank and spare tyre. Hybrid cars were also introduced, but they flopped as their battery technology was too heavy and expensive. It has been reported that GM’s EV-1 “was killed off by the oil and gas industry”, such was the culture of resistance to change in the industry and consumers at the time.

With the Diesel-fuelled internal combustion engine, inroads were made into the area of automotive fuel economy with Diesel fuel becoming available on the forecourts for car-drivers who were offered fuel tax-incentives to encourage them to buy cars with Diesel engines. Trucks had been using the more economical Diesel fuel for decades which helped open-up the US economy in the 1960s.

2000s: Diesel won the battle for the fuel of choice with fuel tax incentives continuing to be offered at the pumps by government. The turbo-Diesel offered performance gains over the sluggish normally-aspirated Diesel but it still didn’t compare with the petrol engine for performance. It has been said that we were duped into buying into Diesel technology because it was still inferior to the direct response offered by petrol engines. The Diesel engine along with the hybrid-powered vehicles were heavy and sluggish, requiring a ‘feather-touch’ accelerator action to bring any substantial efficiency gains. The Toyota Prius was reportedly awful in terms of performance feel and economy also but it did make a courageous first step to change an industry that was heavily-entrenched in and around the conventional petrol-fuelled internal combustion engine.

2010s: the bi turbo-Diesel offered a more lively feel and mid-range acceleration, overcoming ‘turbo-lag’.

Audi were the early pioneers of the bi-turbo Diesel technology with the other major manufacturers following suit.

Improvements in battery technology also led to the hybrid becoming replaced by the plug-in hybrids with Prius’ getting retrofits.

After we’d made the switch to Diesel, the fuel tax-incentive of diesel over petrol was phased out leaving a question-mark hanging the environmental advantages of Diesels with their high particulate emissions.

More recently,

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