The time for hybrids is now!

Aatish reflects on hybrids and why we need more of them on our roads
The S 63 does 0-100kmph in just 3.5 seconds, that is quite impressive for a vehicle weighing over 2.5 tones.
The S 63 does 0-100kmph in just 3.5 seconds, that is quite impressive for a vehicle weighing over 2.5 tones. Shot by Team evo India

The time for hybrids is now! flip through our magazines and you’ll realise just how many hybrids we have on the pages. The covers star — the S 63 E Performance and the GLS 600 are both hybrids. The former is a plug-in hybrid with genuine electric range, and the GLS is a mild hybrid. The big news this month is that the 911 has finally gone hybrid. The SF90 XX, one of Ferrari’s most extreme road cars, is a hybrid. Closer to the ground, the Toyota Hyryder in our Creta comparison test also features a strong hybrid drivetrain. We’ve even got a Camry hybrid in the evo India fleet. And the more I drive them, the more these hybrids make so much sense!

Forget the mild hybrids for a second; the intervention from the electric drivetrain is negligible and it makes very small differences to performance and efficiency. You see the real benefits when you move to strong hybrids, like the Toyota Hyryder, Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara and Toyota Camry. Drive them around the city where, let’s be real, we spend most of our time, and their inherent advantages shine through. So often, they just glide around in EV mode because speeds in our cities are ridiculously slow. And when they need to top up the battery, they do so under deceleration or by running the engine for brief periods of time. Forget the environmental spiel about lower tailpipe emissions; you have very tangible benefits yourself. The driving experience of these cars is so much more refined than your average car since they’re deathly quiet half the time, plus fuel efficiency goes through the roof. And with the cost of living being what it is today, those aren’t advantages you ignore.

The performance car has also been injected with juice courtesy the e-motors. That S 63’s performance is absolutely mind-bending. Plenty of cars do sub 3.5-second 0-100kmph times, but for something that weighs over 2.5 tonnes to do that, with the sheer violence that it unleashes from standstill, shakes you up. And it does so, while still retaining a proper V8, with genuine character and a lovely sound. Being a plug-in, it also gives you electric range. Gliding out of town on the morning of our shoot in absolute silence was eerily cool, especially since I had a V8 to unleash when I hit the open road.

I’m incredibly excited about Porsche’s 911 hybrid. Hybrids aren’t new for Porsche — the Cayenne and Panamera have had them for a while now, but the 911 isn’t a plug-in like those cars are. Being a sportscar, keeping weight in check is obviously a focus and the new system has a 50kg weight penalty over the old one. Not too bad when you consider the massive performance gains it brings. It doesn’t have an EV range, but what it does use the hybrid system for is to maximise performance while meeting current and future emission norms. Porsche has categorically said that the 911 will continue with a combustion engine for as long as it is allowed to sell one, and this is how they will keep it alive. I’m keen to drive it and see how it feels, but knowing how thorough Porsche’s engineering is for the 911 family, I doubt I will have much to complain about.

There are plenty of detractors for hybrids — they’ll tell you that they’re too expensive, and that they don’t do enough to reduce emissions. But look at Toyota’s 1:6:90 rule, which states that the raw material put in to one BEV could make six plug-in hybrids and 90 regular strong hybrids, and that the overall impact of those 90 hybrids over their lifespans is far greater than a single BEV. Sure, it assumes that there’s no carbon footprint to creating the rest of the car, but the rare earths and resources that go in to BEVs could be better used spread out over a larger number of cars.

I don’t hate EVs. I believe there is a use case for them, particularly over short distances and in urban conditions. There are still very real challenges to making them the one-stop solution, charging infrastructure being a real one and the cost of acquisition being the other. Strong hybrids, with far smaller batteries and reasonably strong motors are a great solution today. Currently, the Indian government isn’t subsidising hybrids like it does EVs — they can attract anywhere between 28-43 per cent GST compared to the 5 per cent that BEVs get. There is a lobby trying to change that, with Maruti Suzuki being very vocal about it since the strong hybrids joined their ranks. And I do believe that things should change. We don’t have too many hybrids on offer today, and our cities could do with a lot more of them!

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