Hybrid cars have a lot going for them. They’re priced similarly to petrol and diesel models, are cheaper to run and retain their value for longer. So why are governments and automakers turning their backs on them?
What’s a hybrid car? Literally any car that uses two or more engines. Most of them use an electric motor in tandem with a convention petrol or diesel engine. The technology itself has existed since the start of the 20th century, but the automotive industry was rather late in taking an interest. This is curious, given the very large number of advantages they have over conventional vehicles. These include…
1) …Being more environmentally friendly. Plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) can run solely on electric power for limited distances; usually somewhere between 20 – 40 miles. This is more than enough for the typical commute or school rune, meaning they can be used to dispense with harmful emissions entirely for the most frequent journeys we make.
2) Financial benefits have usually been available for hybrid drivers, usually in the form of reduced taxation or grants. These have been made available by governments which recognise their potential in fighting pollution and toxic emissions. Because they can run on electricity alone, and because of regeneration, they offer significant savings in fuel costs.
3) Regenerative technologies, used by many hybrids, mean they recharge their batteries somewhat each time the brake is used. This means they’re much more energy efficient than vehicles that solely rely on internal combustion.
4) Hybrids have a higher resale value. So, when it’s time to move on to your next car, you’ll get more money back on your old one at the point of sale. This is because of the financial advantages hybrids can confer; especially in terms of fuel economy.
Despite the many benefits of owning a hybrid car (for both consumers and the environment) interest in them is declining. In June, sales of hybrids were down by 11.8% from the same month the previous year. This decline has been attributed to the government’s roll-back of the Plug-In Hybrid Grant. Originally available for a variety of popular hybrid models, it’s now aimed at fully-electric vehicles (EVs). Automakers have been heavily reliant on state subsidies in generating demand for electrified vehicles. Even now, EVs represent just 1% of the car market; despite enormous campaigning and marketing efforts.
It’s been reported that one of the problems with hybrids is that people aren’t charging them. In effect, this means they’re being used as traditional vehicles without any of the financial or environmental benefits. Other reports, however, suggest that consumers are charging them. Whatever the case, consumers still aren’t buying electric vehicles either. Range-anxiety, wildly insufficient charging infrastructure and financial barriers are holding them back from wider adoption. But it’s not just governments that have given up on hybrid cars; manufacturers have, too. Toyota stood out amongst its competitors in that it belief in a lengthier transition period between traditional vehicles and EVs. It’s now reversed this strategy, moving its focus from hybrid models to fully electric options.
A Missed Opportunity
The interest in electric vehicles, in abstract, is predicated on immense anxiety surrounding emissions and global environmental concerns. By many, they’re seen as a necessary step in preventing catastrophe. The problem is, despite these warnings and immense pressure, EVs remain exceptionally niche; growing, to be sure, but niche. Hybrids were perfect for filling the transitional gap between combustion engine vehicles and EVs. Whilst their electric (and therefore ‘green’) range is often modest, they’re sufficient for 90% of the journeys we make; that includes commuting to and from work, making school runs and picking up shopping. They also presented a way of accustoming consumers to the charging process and electricity as a powertrain. In other words, they were (and still could be) a natural and organic step towards a post-combustion engine age.
Instead of seeking practical measures, it could be argued, governments and automakers have knee-jerked themselves into a rushed strategy. The Volkswagen Group may be pouring billions into electrification, but if no one buys their cars no eco-system is spared. People like the familiar, perhaps a more subtle change would have yielded more concrete benefits. After all, slight improvements are better than entirely abstract ones.
Toyota To Give Up On Hybrid Strategy, To Go Full EV: https://autoserve.co.uk/motoring-news/toyota-abandons-hybrid-strategy/
The Advance Of EV Technology Is Stunting Fleet Growth: https://www.autoservefleet.co.uk/latest-news/ev-technology-stunting-fleet-adoption/