Published On: Thu, Aug 20th, 2015

The Hybrid Cars That Are Pushing The Boundaries Of Efficiency (& Speed)

Once-upon-a-time, hybrid cars were just a fantasy in the eyes of environmentalists. And not a fantasy that many car-lovers liked the idea of. The very first hybrid cars were criticised and mocked for their low power and awful range. How could these vehicles ever be practical? Well, it took over a decade, but the naysayers are certainly eating their words. Let’s just take a second to look how far we’ve come.

BMW i8

In the year 2000, Toyota launched the ground-breaking Prius worldwide. It was the first car with a hybrid engine to hit the commercial market. Although environmental activists flocked to support the car, petrolheads couldn’t help but point out its impracticality.

Fast forward fifteen years, and the fastest (road-legal) car around the Nurburgring has a hybrid engine. Yes, you read that correctly. In just fifteen years, we’ve gone from criticisms of slow impracticality to the fastest car in the world. Not only that, but hybrid cars fill our local dealerships, and more orders are coming thick-and-fast. The dealers at Carbase tell us that their hybrid sales are increasing significantly year-on-year. There’s change in the air, that’s for sure. So, let’s look at some of the standout hybrid cars, shall we? Which models are powering this revolution? We’ll start with some everyday, commercial models, and we’ll end with the insane hybrid-supercar record-breakers.

BMW i3 hatchback

This strange looking small car is the single most efficient road vehicle on the planet. BMW have intentionally set their electric cars apart with futuristic styling. Both the i3 and the i8 (we’ll come to that later) wouldn’t look out of place in Tron. But, don’t let flashy appearances distract you from the jaw-dropping statistics. The BMW i3 will produce a staggering 470 mpg. If that doesn’t mean anything to you, let’s look at a comparison. The country’s best-selling road car (Ford Fiesta) averages a sensible 40 mpg. BMW are achieving ten times the mileage. It’s a clear indication of where the motor industry is heading.

Tesla Model S

Tesla is a car company with one single mission; to bring electric driving to the masses. Many refer to Tesla as a tech company rather than an auto business. That’s because of their ferocious appetite for technology and self-made electric batteries. They also have a great startup enthusiasm which has got them where they are today. Tesla like to think of themselves as the next generation of car manufacturers. That remains to be seen, but the Model S is their flagship model that is breaking records at every turn.

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

The Mitsubishi is an interesting vehicle simply because it’s an SUV. It’s strange because SUVs where typically blamed for their part in the rise in global warming. These ‘gas guzzling’ 4x4s began to dominate our cities, drinking petrol at a rate of knots, and adding to the pollution. Yet, here we are in 2015 with a very real solution to the SUV problem. Here we have an SUV that returns better mileage than the infamous Toyota Prius. Not only that, but it boasts an affordable price. It’s no more expensive than its petrol alternative (once you factor in the government grant for plug in hybrids). 4x4s are no longer the bad-boys on our roads.

Volkswagen Golf GTE

The Golf GTE isn’t particularly impressive in terms of mileage statistics or CO2 emissions. Sure, the electric engine returns a much cleaner output than your average hatchback. But, it’s no BMW i3. The reason we’ve included it here for one simple reason. It’s still incredibly fun to drive. One criticism laid at the feet of hybrid cars is that they suck the life and excitement out of driving. They lose the thrill of acceleration and speed. Well, the Golf GTE proves otherwise. It still manages an impressive 0-60 mph time of 7.6 seconds. It’s proof that your practical family hatchback can balance both efficiency and excitement.

Porsche 918 Spyder

Enough about the commercial road cars. What about the record-beating, track-destroying hybrid super-monsters? There are a variety of super fast models on the market, but the Porsche 918 Spyder was the first to emerge. It set the world alight by recording the fastest ever lap around the Nurburgring (by a road-legal car). Everyone who had ever criticised the hybrid movement stood and watched with jaws wide open. The 918 Spyder proved that hybrid power isn’t just efficient, it can unlock powerful speeds. Of course, the range is tiny when running on electric alone, but it’s a phenomenal first step.

So good, they named it twice; the Ferrari LaFerrari

Ferrari LaFerrari

At the top of the pile, there’s a fierce battle for the best hybrid supercar. Recently, the imaginatively titled Ferrari LaFerrari (literally: Ferrari, the Ferrari), laid claim to the crown. The car costs more than £1 million to buy, but it is widely regarded the best car on the planet. It’s the most powerful production car ever made. It uses a hybrid engine to unlock nearly 1000 bhp, which is unheard of previously. Ferrari claim they aren’t interested in hybrid engines for efficiency purposes (only speed). However, they’ve proved that there is a fast future in hybrid motoring.

McLaren P1

The only other big player in the hybrid supercar arena is the McLaren P1. For our money, it’s the best looking hypercar in the world, edging out the Ferrari LaFerrari. The P1 falls short of the Ferrari and the Porsche in terms of sheer speed. But, it’s the best in class when it comes to drivability. It’s the most fun to throw around the corners. A combination of the three hypercars would certainly create the world’s best car. Who’s up to the challenge?

BMW i8

We’ll finish where we started, with BMW. The i8 slots in somewhere between the commercial road cars and the hypercars. It’s not a supercar, which means it’s not priced anywhere near the Ferrari’s extortionate £1 million price tag. However, it is still a high-performance vehicle that is pushing the boundaries of hybrid technology. It is light-years ahead of competitors in this range. Once they extend the range with a fatter electric engine, this car will set a new standard for sports cars.

As you can see, hybrid motoring is here to stay. Just think how far we’ve come in ten years, and imagine the heights we’ll reach in the next ten. It’s an exciting time for motoring, that’s for sure.