As we see the electric car market continue to develop around the world many of the breakthroughs in the headlines today have come via hybrid cars. While there is certainly demand for hybrid cars, i.e. vehicles which have two or more power supplies, do these types of vehicle hinder or help the electric car market?
The benefits of a hybrid car
There are many benefits available from hybrid cars which include:
Even though there are some hybrid vehicles on the market that appear to offer very little in the way of economic savings, any vehicle which has an electric power supply and another supply, such as petrol or gasoline, will automatically fall into the reduced emissions bracket.
Even if your hybrid vehicle operates on electric power only 10% of the time then this will reduce the number of moving parts and ultimately have an impact on maintenance. Less moving parts mean less wear and tear which ultimately means less maintenance. Less maintenance means a more efficient vehicle and a reduction in maintenance costs.
Reduce fuel bills
Even though the likes of the Chevrolet Volt has been criticised somewhat because of the fact it is ultimately powered by traditional fuels such as petrol or gasoline for the majority of the time, it still appears to be more efficient than the traditional cars on the market today. Even just the slightest hint of electric power will significantly reduce fuel bills, and with the price of oil very volatile at the moment this can be of great assistance to drivers.
The ability to combine two power supplies
The ability to incorporate two different power supplies into one vehicle has obvious advantages in that if one power supply is low then the other can be switched on and vice versa. Hopefully as electric car technology continues to improve we will see new hybrid vehicles allowing a larger percentage of journey times to be powered by electric which will ultimately improve all of the above aspects.
The downsides to 100% electric powered cars
While there are many benefits to using cars which are 100% powered by electric, with no liquid fuel such as petrol or gasoline involved, there are still a number of practical issues to resolve. To put the whole matter into perspective, when was the last time you saw or heard about an electric vehicle recharging point?
The truth is that while there are many more benefits to the electric car than the vast majority of us will be aware of, until we have electric car power points available across the UK, and across the world, the market will remain subdued. While we see the likes of the UK government introducing a multi-million pound electric car trial across the UK and Boris Johnson hoping to introduce in excess of 100,000 electric vehicles to London's over the next few years, the signs are good but there is still much work to be done.
Do hybrid cars detract from the benefits of electric vehicles?
One vehicle which has caught the headlines over the last few months has been the Chevrolet Volt which has been introduced by General Motors. As we suggested above, this is a vehicle which has been put forward as a hybrid car when in fact it is actually 90% powered by traditional fuel although because the fuel powers the electric generator, which then powers the motors, it can be classed as a hybrid. But is this type of vehicle impacting upon the perceived benefits of electric cars?
There is no doubt that allowing hybrid vehicles to be predominantly powered by traditional fuels does take away much of the benefit perceived to be available via the electric car. Those who have not done their homework may not be aware of the situation regarding the likes of the Chevrolet Volt and ultimately may see this as the "car of the future". Even though there are obvious benefits to this particular vehicle, which uses fuel to power the electric motors which drives the car, there are still emissions and it is still using substantial amounts of fuel.
After fighting tooth and nail for many years to push electric cars into the limelight, surely General Motors (which has been long accused of trying to "kill the electric car") cannot yet again spoil the party?
The next few years are vital for the electric car industry
There is no doubt that despite a number of false dawns in the past, the electric vehicle and ultimately the electric car is entering a very important phase of its development. If the vehicles do not take off over the next 10 years, for whatever reason, then it is highly likely that their eventual delivery into the mass market could take many more years to complete. However, while the likes of General Motors appear unconvinced about the potential for 100% electric powered cars, companies such as Tesla Motors are leaving companies such as General Motors behind in this particular field.
If Tesla motors, and other similar companies committed to the electric vehicle, can become the leaders of the pack on a long-term basis then we could see the influence of the likes of General Motors, Ford and other prominent traditional car manufacturers reduced in favour of the likes of Tesla.
While there is no doubt that the hybrid vehicle offers a very useful halfway house between traditional fuel powered cars and electric vehicles, there is a need to be honest with the public and explain that many hybrid cars are in effect powered by traditional fuels. Many motorists who think they're buying an electric car might be disappointed to find out it is almost wholly powered by traditional fuel and this could scare people away from the sector.
However, as long as the likes of Tesla Motors and other electric car companies continue to grab the headlines, the ability of such companies as General Motors and the like to dictate the future direction of the market is reduced. Make no mistake, as soon as General Motors and Ford for example see that this particular market is here to stay and is taking off, they will bombard the market with their own electric vehicles!