The False Prophet come in auto form, the Hybrid

May 12, 2010 at 12:10 am (Informative) (, , )

The way Hybrid cars have taken over the greater automotive scene is highly reminiscent of the way Apple has taken over the world of consumer appliances. Buyers are taken in by the slick sheen, apparent user friendliness, and all the enticing promises given out in their advertising.

And much like Apple, the goodness that Hybrid cars purport is highly misleading. For the informed, they are merely another option to an endless supply of choices out there on the showroom floor.

They are not the answer.

My gripes over Apple I leave for another post. What I will get to today is the Hybrid car.

It is often said that the Hybrid car is the saviour from our bleak future, otherwise doomed by global warming. Along with the heated (hohoho) debates over global warming, there are great questions hanging over the head of hybrid cars.

It is a well known fact that car companies, when publishing catalogues and brochures – and other public relation flotsamĀ  – they embellish on the technical statistics.
Acceleration times, Top speeds, cornering abilities, and lap times on the Nurburgring compared to some other German manufacturers, to name a few features are often slightly improved to increase appeal.

In our world of ever increasing environmental awareness, two new statistics are garnering much more attention than ever. Fuel Consumption (litres consumed per 100km travelled), and Carbon Emissions (average grams emitted per kilometre travelled). So with the above in mind, do you really believe the manufacturers paint the complete picture when it comes to these figures?

To be plain, auto makers are not strictly lying when it comes to publishing figures in relation to their newest models. These figures are the results of tests conducted in clinical conditions, so they may well be real, but are not in reality attainable. In practical conditions these figures are a long way away.

Toyota/Honda may suggest that their newest hybrid does Xl/100km and emits no more than XXXg/km of carbon in urban driving, but the same is true of any other car. There are the figures presented, achieved through clinical testing, men/women in lab coats and safety glasses et al. and then there is Frank doing the school run in heavy city traffic. You cannot achieve these figures unless you replicate the exact conditions apparent in testing.

A small point to illustrate, the fuel consumption stickers on the cars that I work with with a 3 litre inline six present about 9l/100km in extra urban (or highway) cycle and 11l/100km in urban (or city) cycle. But when you jump onboard, and start driving (and subsequently sitting in traffic), the car’s own onboard readout displays nearly 14l/100km and no matter how much attention you pay to your accelerator pedal this figure will stay largely the same.

It is often easier to work in extremes, so I present you a case. You fully load a Prius with 4 adult passengers, and a full boot of luggage driving around in an urban environment with traffic, you will find fuel consumption will be nothing short of fishy.

One thing that really works against the hybrid’s favour is also the same thing fully electric cars still haven’t made it to mainstream (for different reasons of course).

The batteries.

You may sing the praises of the hybrid upon the high mountain tops, but you can’t hide it under the carpet. Production of the batteries in the first place is highly energy intensive. Then you have the problem of disposing them after their use by date (so far this has been found to be about half a decade). And for the earlier models – hybrids have been around for the greater part of a decade after all – they may have well gone through half a dozen batteries already.
Aside from how much this will hurt your pocket, saying that this is a small price for benefit fuel economy is nothing but short sighted.
It’s reducing one problem for sure but creating an entirely different one.

Decrying the modern petroleum car in this stop start world is missing the point entirely. It’s like using a Bulldozer to thread a needle and saying that it’s too inarticulate and industrial – but what you need to do sort of falls into the range of movement, so you persist anyway.

There is nothing you can do for the petrol automobile if you place upon it the chore of stop/start commuting. The problem is our mode of usage and in the end, our dependancy.

Cars don’t poison the world. People poison the world.

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