Monday, February 15, 2010

Hybrids Hit Mainstream For Manufactures

Would you believe me if I told you that Ferrari has unveiled a hybrid model? A year ago, I would have laughed with you at the idea of a lean, cherry-red, Italian supercar with a hybrid power unit. The Ferrari 559 is a radical departure for the company, but not for the hybrid unit alone - the car came not with the signature red paint job, but appreciatively green! Obviously, this is not last year - it is 2010 and Ferrari is only one of a number of major car manufacturers announcing and unveiling hybrid models.

Hybrids Hit Mainstream For ManufacturesEnglish car research and bespoke engineering company, Lotus has supplied a number of hybrid power unit "plug-ins" for Malaysian car manufacturer, Proton. Hybrids have been the domain of the Japanese for the last five years, but the American car giants have been catching up (especially with the Congressional strings attached to bail-out funding and Presidential demands for cleaner and fuel-efficient cars). Now the Europeans are getting in on the act, and several manufacturers will undoubtedly be taking a share in the US market.

Hybrids Hit Mainstream For ManufacturesThe Volkswagen Passat, diesel powered, has been voted the greenest car in the US for 2009, but it is not a hybrid. VW are addressing this glaring omission in their line-up with the introduction of the 2011 Toureg, an SUV which has shed over 460 pounds and has an added gas/electric unit. Though the Toureg comes in lighter than previous models, it has managed to retain its dimensions, so it is not in fact a smaller vehicle (just lighter).

Hybrids Hit Mainstream For Manufactures
Hybrids Hit Mainstream For Manufactures Porsche have also launched the hybrid version of the Cayenne which shares the same platform as the Toureg (VW owns Porsche which is run as an independent unit), and the same hybrid unti will power the 2011 hybrid model too. It should come as no surprise that Audi are also getting in on the act - Audi is, of course, also owned by VW - and the same power unit is seen in the Audi S4. Staying with VW a moment longer, Audi has launched the A8 Hybrid as its first major entry into the hybrid market. One difference from Audi's approach compared to the rest of the market is that Audi have focused on enhancing fuel efficiency from the petrol unit and not the electric one. Thanks to this, it is not the greenest car you can buy, but then again it is not a "small" car which seems to have been eschewed by the major European car makers. They are all competing for the high-end car buyer who wants green credentials but no sacrifice in performance and luxury.

BMW is also introducing a new 5-series range this year, but what really caught everyone's attention was not the new range but the 5-series Concept under BMW's ActiveHybrid brand. BMW has dabbled with hybrid concepts before, but the 5-series is the company's flagship range (closely allied with the 3-series). The 5-series range is probably BMW's best bet for entering the US hybrid market, and this is what has grabbed observers attention more than anything else, though the 7-series has already been put into production.

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