Electric and hybrid cars today have come a long way from the production models we’ve seen over the years. A lot of car enthusiasts would turn the other way at the mere mention of a hybrid, especially one of the foremost names in the list – the Toyota Prius. While we’ve seen cars like the G-Wiz, known as the Reva in some markets, and several attempts to make electric mobility popular; they all met the same fate and never really took off. One of the main reasons of course is the range of extremely fuel efficient hatchbacks that are available to those who seek economy.
Now however, with a greater need for alternative fueled mobility solutions, car makers have taken greater steps to introduce electric propulsion in automobiles and the results of those efforts are astonishing to say the least! The concept of plug-in hybrid vehicles has taken care of the bane which the previous models all had – range. With a small-capacity conventional engine acting as a generator, you will never have to worry about the batteries running out of juice in the middle of nowhere. The electric motor has finally found the alliance it needed. Here are some of them that make it to a list not short of being cool!
Probably the most appealing of the lot, the Honda CR-Z delivers a great combination of design, efficiency and practicality. Armed with a 1.5L i-VTEC 4-cylinder petrol engine paired to an electric driveline, it delivers an output of 124 horsepower and 174 Nm (128 lb/ft) of peak torque at a very usable 1000-1500 rpm rev range. The 3-mode drive system lets you have equal doses of fun and economy as you’d like it. Fuel economy figures touch 56.5 mpg (Imp) while emissions are just 117 g/km. With prices starting from just over £18,000 in the UK, it’s definitely something to think about!
Toyota Prius Plug-in
The Prius is a name established in many minds as the first proper hybrid car the world has seen. While it has evolved a lot over the years, the new Prius Plug-in makes ownership a much better experience than ever before. Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive technology combines the 98 horsepower 1.8L Atkinson cycle 4-cylinder petrol engine to a pair of electric motors. One 60kW motor powers the lightweight transaxle, while the other smaller motor, rated at 42kW acts as a source for battery regeneration. The net output is 134 horsepower.
Even with these additions, the Prius Plug-in is just 50 kg more than a regular Prius. The fuel economy figure stands at 134 mpg (Imp) with emissions of just 49 g/km. Prices start at just under £33,000 but that’s before considering the available grant of up to £5,000.
Volvo V60 D6 Plug-in Hybrid
Volvo gave the world its first production diesel plug-in hybrid electric vehicle in the V60 D6; which also happens to be a very attractive package. It is essentially a regular safe, comfortable and practical V60 wagon, with a raised boot floor being the only difference practically. Powering the D6 is the 2.4L twin-turbo inline 5 diesel engine making 215 horsepower and 440 Nm (324 lb/ft) of torque. The electric motor integrated with the driveline makes an additional 70 horsepower and 200 Nm (147 lb/ft).
The best part is that it offers you three modes – Pure, Hybrid and Power. You can choose to drive on pure electricity for up to 50 kms at speeds of up to 74 mph as a zero-emission vehicle when needed; you can choose hybrid mode (default mode on start-up) which uses the engine as a generator for the batteries when needed, using just 1.9L/100 kms and emitting only 49 g/km in this mode; or, you can enable full power which puts to use the combined 285 horsepower and upto 600 Nm (442 lb/ft) of torque in a hybrid 4x4 mode with acceleration figures of 0-60 in 6.2 seconds! Whichever mode you choose, you will surely find yourself making fewer fuel stops. At just about £47,000, the V60 isn’t a cheap buy, but it does help save a lot more in the long run.
The brain child of Henrik Fisker, the Karma makes electricity look cool. A proper supercar, it distinguishes itself by being a hybrid with astonishing output numbers. A 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder petrol engine is present only to recharge the batteries when the charge level drops. What those batteries power are a pair of electric motors which together put out 403 horsepower and 1300 Nm (959 lb/ft) of torque! That translates to a 0-60 time of 5.9 seconds and a top speed limited to 125 mph. Also to be noted, are the large 22-inch wheels needed because of all that torque.
The Karma has two modes – Stealth and Sport. Stealth mode shuts off the petrol engine to ensure zero emissions, while Sport gets it back on the job of recharging the batteries. Moreover, the Karma also makes use of a lot of environmentally friendly material in its construction. A fuel economy figure of up to 62 mpg and emissions of 53 g/km are fantastic for a car of this kind. With a price tag of just over $100,000 in the US, it is in a club of its own; then again, the bespoke construction and exceptional build quality speak for themselves.
One of the most exciting concepts shown to the world over the past few years was the e-tron quattro from Audi. The idea of using four individual electric motors at each wheel took the term ‘four-wheel-drive supercar’ to another plane of engineering, apart from simply electric cars. While Audi has shown a few concept cars based on the R8 sportscar, a long wheelbase A6 saloon and even an A1 hatchback, the e-tron nomenclature came to fore on the R18 e-tron quattro which raced at the 24 hours of Le Mans 2012. This platform is sure to lead to some truly electrifying cars of the future.