Hybrid Cars: A step in the right direction

Modern car companies are ever changing and adapting, not just because they want to but because they must. Gone are the days when cars were powered by big, raw, naturally aspirated fuel-burning engines. Most companies these days are adapting hybrid and electric engines to power their cars, with the latter still being perfected.

The change happened around 2012-2013 when the entire world was up in arms over automobile pollution, the growing shortage of fossil fuels and global warming. Normal engines being run on petrol or diesel were emitting harmful gases even while powering a car and with the hundreds of features being offered inside a modern car required ever more fuel. The plateauing of fuel efficiency and stagnant mileage per unit of fuel consumed only infuriated environmentalists.

In India, Maruti Suzuki was the first company to develop and introduce hybrid technology in their cars from scratch, namely in their model ‘Ciaz’ Smart Hybrid Vehicle System (SHVS). This was the first car in the country to have an electric motor connected to its diesel or petrol engine. The initial power is provided by the electric motors and then the engine takes over to provide maximum power and torque. Every time one applies the brake in the car, the mechanical energy isn’t lost by getting converted into heat but is converted into electrical energy and stored in the batteries, which then powers some of the interior and exterior equipment, thereby reducing the strain on the engine and saves fuel. This technology is being introduced across the company’s entire range and will become a permanent feature.

The technology wasn’t entirely a foreign concept in India. Toyota was the first company to bring in the ‘Camry Hybrid’ into the country years ago and it proved to be quite a hit, selling in large numbers. But this technology didn’t come cheap. At Rs.47 lakh, only the rich were able to afford it and it remained out of reach for most of the population unlike Maruti Suzuki. Toyota did set the ball rolling with the ‘Prius’, the world’s first full hybrid electric car in 1997. It was voted the cleanest car sold in the world. While Toyota did introduce the Prius in India in 2012, there were only a handful of takers as it was priced around Rs.20 lakhs.

It wasn’t only the mass-manufacturing car companies that decided to introduce hybrid technology into their cars. The big supercar companies too, seized the moment. Ferrari, McLaren and Porsche came out with their versions of hybrid supercars that had jaw dropping looks with blistering performance. They had the entire car industry stop dead in its tracks and notice. What was considered taboo in the supercar level of performance was destroyed. When the entire world said that supercars will be obsolete in the future, these companies showed that you can still use hybrid technology to save the supercar for tomorrow and that is a massive achievement.

With the Indian government passing strict rules for all car companies to reduce their carbon footprint and increase fuel efficiency by 2022, we can expect every single car in the country to have this technology embedded in its DNA, and moreover at prices that would make it accessible and affordable to everyone and not just the super rich.

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Webley Preetham
MMA and boxing enthusiast, guitarist, watch collector, stylist, automobile enthusiast, public speaker, trainer, and amateur artiste.

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