Hybrids have been on the market for 10 years now, and while they’ve been interesting, perhaps even fascinating, calling them ‘exciting’ would have been a stretch.
After the quirky original Honda Insight and Toyota Prius saloon, the challenge was making these cars that carry a bulky battery and electric motor acceptable to people who wanted a mainstream car.
The Prius has become a medium-sized family hatchback, the second Honda Insight is also conventional looking, and Lexus hybrids are versions of existing models.
But Honda now has the CR-Z. It’s a compact coupé that supposedly does all the things you would expect of a coupé – provide a sharp, responsive drive and sleek looks – but is also a hybrid.
Vauxhall Ampera prototype
Mention electric vehicle and it probably won’t be long before the phrase ‘range anxiety’ enters the discussion.
With battery technology currently allowing an electric vehicle a maximum range of about 100 miles before recharging, the concept might be suitable for low-mileage fleets, but the compromise is obvious.
Hybrid pioneer Toyota has decided to diversify with plug-in versions of the Prius – while planning to introduce a full electric vehicle in 2012.
The principle of a plug-in hybrid is that the car runs on the battery for a short period, while the engine takes over when the range has expired. Vauxhall is planning to leapfrog some of its rivals with a new family car to be launched in 2012 using unique technology.
Fleet operators like to know what they’re getting when it comes to their vehicles.
So perhaps it’s justified to set aside any personal disappointment that the ‘new’ Volkswagen Passat isn’t a little more adventurous and judge it on what it offers fleets, which will make up the vast majority of its customers.
The so-called ‘seventh-generation’ Passat uses the same platform as the version launched in 2005, although with updated styling and improved fuel efficiency.