The Rise of Hybrid Sports Cars
If I was to say to you ‘hybrid vehicle’ then the first word that comes to mind is undoubtedly ‘Prius’. The most popular hybrid car, launched by Toyota for the Japanese market in the late 1990s, Prius has almost become a byword for the genre. However, with great power comes great responsibility, and unfortunately hybrid vehicles have long suffered from association with the preconception of Prius owners.
How does a Prius owner drive? One hand on the wheel, one hand patting themselves on the back. By the mid 2000s the Prius, and hybrid cars in general, had earned themselves something of a reputation as being the car of choice for the smug do-gooder, the conservative family car for the parents who boast about the abilities of their offspring, ‘look at this finger painting little Tiberius did, he’s only three, we’ve contacted the Tate Modern to arrange an exhibition of his work’. No one wants to be that guy; the hybrid simply wasn’t cool.
However, with fuel prices fluctuating and Gulf Wars escalating the hybrid market has since expanded. Other manufacturers have entered the market, and the hybrid is finally starting to move away from the image of staid suburbia. Honda nudged things in the right direction in 2010, taking us away from the sort of world where we’d studiously fill in an application for one day car insurance before haring off into the sunset, with the launch of the CR-Z. Billed as the world’s first sporty hybrid it opened the doors to sports car manufacturers worldwide.
Last year British Racing Car giant Lotus entered the hybrid market with the Evora 414E Hybrid, driven by electric motors, and still capable of performing the 0-62mph sprint in 4.4 seconds. Following Lotus have been other European racing giants; Ferrari launched their own hybrid, LaFerrari at this year’s Geneva Motor Show, which mirrors a number of features from their F1 cars including KERS and a carbon fibre monocoque body. And the Italian giants aren’t the only ones to muscle in, as this summer Porsche have released the Panamera S Hybrid, which delivers CO2 emissions of just 71g/km and will power to 124mph in 19 seconds.
So what to the future? Has the hybrid really ceased to be square? Can we finally ditch the NHS spectacles, detach the baby-seat, brush the short term car insurance paperwork off the desk and tear off in a dual powered car? Well the number of sports hybrid concepts dotting this year’s big motor-shows suggests that manufacturers certainly have no plans to get out of the genre whilst the going is good. Honda aren’t resting on the CR-Z and have unveiled the sleek NSX concept, whilst Audi have premiered four different versions of their e-tron hybrid Spyder and even the eternally smooth Jaguar have gotten involved with the C-X75.
As each motor show passes the beige world of the Prius continues to disappear further back in the hybrid car’s mirror suggesting that for the near future at least, the sports hybrid is here to stay, and thrust even more radical concepts on to us at next year’s motor shows. Our parents might not approve, and that’s why we should love it.