“Hybrids Are For Weenies”
Mention “hybrid,” or its synonym, “Prius,” and most people automatically think of fuel-sipping, bug-like, little four-seater cars with the personality of a melon. “Hybrids are for weenies,” could be a typical response, especially for drivers who have a predilection for sleek, fast, and particularly expensive supercars. What makes a supercar different from mom’s sedan?
First, there’s power, something along the lines of power you’d find in race cars, but tuned down a little to make it street-legal. Then, there’s handling, supercars delivering the twitchy feel of race cars in a package that is slightly more accessible for someone not on a racing team. Finally, something that is severely lacking in the automotive world is personality, and supercars have plenty. Is a hybrid supercar something of an oxymoron?
“Hybrids Are Not For Weenies.”
Understand one thing, “Hybrids are not for weenies,” but actually offer a couple of things that internal combustion engines [ICE] alone cannot achieve. A hybrid electric vehicle includes the addition of batteries and electric motors [EM], which gives hybrid vehicles their well-known fuel economy. A hybrid supercar could only benefit from increased fuel economy, especially as emissions regulations continue to become more and more stringent.
Second, if you compare the torque output, that is, the ability of the vehicle to accelerate, electric motors blow ICEs off the road. That’s why electric vehicles can outdrag comparable ICE vehicles, such as the informal drag race between the Tesla Model S and the BMW M5 that Automobile Magazine conducted a couple months ago. What’s the difference? The Tesla Model S generates nearly 450 ft lbs of torque at 0 rpm, while the M5 generates 500 ft lbs, but has to get to 1,500 rpm first. Why wouldn’t you want an electric motor in a supercar?
Fuel-Efficient and Torque-Happy Hybrid Supercars?
Actually, there are more than a few hybrid supercars in the works, and some of them could be ready by 2014 at the earliest, and they don’t look anything like “Mom’s Taxi.”
- BMW i8. Slated for a late 2014 production date, the BMW i8 is everything a supercar ought to be, short, twitchy, and powerful. The lithium-ion [Li-ion] battery pack is in the floor, which keeps the center of gravity down where it belongs, and the front EM and rear Ice keep the vehicle balanced front to rear. The ICE and EM in an i8 combine to produce some 349 hp and 406 lb ft of torque, still managing to rate 94 mpge fuel economy. Just for comparison, this is the same fuel efficiency you can expect from a Toyota Prius Plug-In.
- Nissan GT-R. Not much is known about the next-generation GT-R, but an engineer on the development team said it would include “some electronic device” to boost efficiency. This could only mean hybrid, perhaps a variation of the Infiniti M35h hybrid platform, but if so, would also mean that the GT-R needs to lose some weight to make up for the EM and Li-ion components. The current GT-R is powered by a turbocharged 3.8ℓ V6, producing 545 hp, but the new hybrid version could rate over 600 hp.
- Ferrari “F150.” Possibly a replacement for the current Ferrari Enzo, the currently-code-named “F150” still makes use of the classic Ferrari V12 engine, mated with a hybrid system. The V12 is toned back a hair, but the system as a whole still produces over 800 hp. The new F150 will also get a carbon-fiber monocoque, reducing weight by nearly 20%, which, when combined with the hybrid system, ought to realize a 40% increase in fuel economy.
- Vermot AG Veritas RSIII Roadster Hybrid. A small supercar company out of Germany recently released a very retro-looking car, running on a BMW-sourced V10 engine surrounded by a carbon-fiber and kevlar shell. The next iteration of the RSIII is going to be hybridized with the addition of a 105kW electric motor over the front axle, bringing the total output over 600 hp. Also the fastest hybrid in the world, accelerating from zero to sixty-two mph in only 3.1 seconds.
- Jaguar C-X75. Unfortunately, Jaguar has scrapped this idea, but I’m certain it will come up again in the future. Expected to price around $1 million, of course the market will be scarce for such a vehicle, but still, the technology is sound.
- Porsche 918. Lamborghini Gallardo. Others? I’m sure that even more companies will start adding hybrid technology to their lineup, including the supercars. Hybridized vehicles aren’t just for the fuel-conscious, but then, with the price of fuel hovering near the $4 mark, even the supercar owners see the need for fuel efficiency. Expect to see this list keep on growing!
The Electrified Future
Ninety percent of the vehicles on the road look like they are copying one another, and at times can be difficult to tell apart. Not so with supercars, which are designed specifically to stand out. No one mistakes a Lotus Esprit or a Lamborghini Aventador for a Ford Taurus or Toyota Camry, and why would they?
The supercar is meant to be seen and heard, to be remembered. The supercar price tag includes, not only engineering, but also the unique look, so how would anyone mix up “hybrid” and “supercar?” No, it’s not a mix-up, hybrid vehicles are here to stay, and supercars are along for the ride.