Monday, January 16, 2006

On Hybrid Cars

James May writes in the Daily Telegraph of his experience with a Toyota Prius hybrid car and comes to the conclusion the concept is flawed. His logic is quite clear - you only fill up a hybrid with gasoline/petrol and there is no way of "topping it up" with electricity.

What the hybrid does do, of course, is to convert kinetic energy back to electricity when it makes sense to do so. This requires extra kit, a more complicated design and, inevitably, a heavier vehicle to move around. Which is why May is not impressed.

Years ago, I remember riding with an experienced lady driver (she used to drive in rallies in the 1950s) who drove a very nice Hillman coupé. She used a lot of what she called "scotch petrol". This really wasn't scotch! She simply turned the ignition off and coasted down hills, thereby saving on fuel. Today that couldn't be done. The steering lock would ensure that the vehicle would leave the road at the first downhill turn and with power steering unpowered the first corner might not be navigable anyway! In many ways this illustrates the problems that our sophisticated lives have generated. What used to be simple is now complex. What might have made sense fifty years ago is impossible today - unless, of course you still happen to own and drive a pristine 1950s Hillman!

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