- Category: Reviews
- Published on Tuesday, 08 February 2011 09:01
- Written by Tejas Joseph
- Hits: 1888
Life always has the tendency to come full circle at some point.The personal automobile mass revolution kickstarted in the early part of the last century was made possible largely due to the availability of cheap auto fuels – petrol and diesel. The problem was that it was assumed that this situation would prevail forever.It was not until the 60s that it became clear to all ( apart from the specialists who had always known this) that oil ( from fossil fuels) was a finite resource and would dry out at some point, and what then? True as this was it was not easy to imagine a world ( or cars) without oil and we just kept going, out of apathy as much as for not having any alternatives to turn to. There was another problem with oil apart from its decreasing availability and continually rising prices. Oil ( rightly or wrongly) was the main actor in the climate change drama, being directly responsible for much of the pollution that caused it.
Cut to the beginning of the 2nd millenium and we notice a world awash in concern for new technologies (and fuels) for personal and mass mobility and a greener environment. The last ten years have seen the emergence of new automotive technologies that were the direct offshoots of the quest for alternatives to oil,that were also renewable and clean to boot.
Hybrids were the first to appear on the alt/eco auto landscape. The hybrid was the obvious way to go since it offered the best of two worlds. Hybrids were also the guinea pigs of the ev world upon which a spate of revolutionary new ideas rode and were being tested. Hybrids stand at the threshold of the transition to newer and better automotive technologes and propellants.
The Japanes are market leaders in hybrids and have served to stimulate a worldwide interest in hybrid cars.Thanks to the sucess of Toyota's Prius every major automaker – Ford, VolksWagen, Nissan, Honda and Hyundai – have added hybrids to their stable. What was until now something of a green fetish amongst select auto buyers is now becoming a serious shopping option with the recent jump in global oil prices being passed down to the local gas station across the world. Fuel economy (more than pollution) is now riding customer concern. In America it is also compounded by lifestyle requirements prompting auto makers to respond by creating models that balance fuel efficiency with power and space. Toyota have just released the Prius V – a station wagon model of the famed hybrid and plan to expand this line to cover a whole category( upto 11 models) of hybrids that they think will eventually outsell ( and replace) their other models. Ford claim that by 2020 ,25% of their cars will be electrified but that more than a third of this will be hybrids. Nissan's golden grail is the full blown 'total electric car' that will set the benchmark for sustainable driving. But while they are working on this dream we will see a few hybrids emerge from their floorshops in the next few years. Lexus are also looking seriously at hybrids for the luxury segment while VW have stated that by 2018 upto 3% of all their cars will be electric. But in the meanwhile we can look forward to seeing their hybrids on the roads (beginning with the Jetta and Audi) this year itself.
All this is indeed good news for EVs, even if now only at the intermediary (but significant) hybrid phase. It shows a turning of the tide towards more enlightened engineering and customer choice. This popular acceptance of an alternative will also help in lowering unit costs, drive technical refinements and eventually bring it to a larger market. And to think we have only oil to thank for it! How paradoxical can life get?