‘Hybrid’ - A product of mixing two or more different things. A typical hybrid vehicle consists of 1.) a conventional fossil-fuel-powered engine and 2.) an electric drivetrain with batteries and motors.
The batteries and electric motors provide the capability to travel short distances on electric power alone, while the gasoline engine can be used for longer journeys. A hybrid battery can’t be plugged into a charging socket. Instead, it uses Regenerative Braking and Engine to stir up power into the Battery. The onset of ‘Hybrid’ Vehicles in the late 2000s was meant to be a transitional phase into an all-electric future.
The appeal of hybrids to the people becomes quite apparent. Now, people can drive completely emission-free during their short city commutes while also having the peace of mind of not being stranded in the middle of their journey. Long journeys are as convenient as conventional fuel-powered cars. Also, switching directly from an ICE vehicle to an EV might be a drastic change for many; a hybrid provides a nice stop-gap to get used to electric mobility first. As of late, hybrid powertrains have been used to increase the effect of the ICE in many performance cars and motorsport, satisfying the purists’ requirements as well.
Unfortunately, the Hybrid era of motoring has been anything but successful. Although cars like the Toyota Prius did have a profound impact on the market, most mainstream manufacturers have abandoned Hybrid Tech to focus on pure Electric Vehicles instead. Hybrids are much more complex machines than pure EVs and ICE-powered cars, and with that comes many more components and manufacturing hassles. Although modern hybrids are relatively reliable, the added complexity naturally means more things that could potentially go wrong. All these added components and R&D also mean that Hybrids are much more expensive to buy than conventional ICE cars and even modern-day EVs with similar performance. The added components also mean worse packaging than pure ICE cars and pure EVs, which means lesser interior space.
That has left Toyota and their luxury arm Lexus the sole flag bearers of the consumer Hybrid space right now. Most manufacturers intend to stop the development of the Internal Combustion Engines within the next two decades, which will most likely spell the end of the hybrid era. Most countries are also imposing tighter and tighter restrictions on ICE emissions in a bid to shift their fleets towards pure EVs, and in most cases, hybrids do not receive special treatment. In contrast, Governments are pushing the adoption of pure EVs through incentives appealing to traditional car buyers. Pure EVs and charging infrastructure projects are developing at a rapid rate and are soon set to match or even overtake conventional cars in terms of performance, range, and convenience. Thus, paying the extra money and buying a hybrid makes little sense to most budget-sensitive buyers, and hence, it seems like hybrids have faded into a state of irrelevance.
However, there is a silver lining. Although the Internal Combustion Engine is dying, manufacturers have celebrated the development and progress made in this sector through racing programs and sports cars. Formula 1 – the world’s most-watched racing series – uses hybrid engines, and there is record participation in the hybrid-powered World Endurance Championship. Carmakers like Ferrari, McLaren, Porsche, Lamborghini, and Mercedes have embraced hybrid technology as a way to keep making their trademark products despite modern regulations. Although sports cars like these make up a very tiny portion of overall car sales, their influence on the wider buyer base can not be ignored. Motorsport and Sportscar applications can also lead us to new, innovative, and potentially lighter battery tech, which will be useful in pure Electric cars.
To sum it up, the era of hybrids has ended almost as soon as it began. To most buyers, hybrids are irrelevant in this day and age; electric cars are simpler, cleaner, and have the potential to be cheaper. But hybrids have given us one final chance to embrace and enjoy what we all love about conventional cars.
Although this will last a few years at best, hybrids will live on in the hearts of many as the last chapter in a golden age and as a result, can be fitting for a select few.
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