In our previous article on fuel-efficiency, we listed down a bunch of alternative-fuel vehicle choices that will not only help your petrol budget, but the environment too. While compressed air or solar cars might be a bit far-fetched for now, there’s another automotive solution that would ease your expensive petrol budget called the HYBRID! Okay, fair enough, they’re not new to Malaysia, but I wanted to hammer home the point…
What is it?
Unlike electric or hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, hybrids generate energy or electricity from the motion of the car, recovering energy that would otherwise be wasted, for later re-use. However, hybrid cars still use a petrol engine, enhanced by an electric motor combined with a large storage battery. When the car accelerates, the petrol engine and electric motor provide power but when the car slows down, the battery is recharged via kinetic energy losses. So by storing and re-using energy, hybrids require less petrol in the long run, pun intended.
The best thing about hybrids is that they make it easy for drivers to get significantly better fuel mileage without sacrificing driving pleasure. Not only does a hybrid use less fuel, it also produces less pollution.
In recent years, the hybrid car has grown from a distant future innovation, to the car next door, as more consumers are becoming aware of its existence and benefits, and opt for this type of vehicle, either for environmental purposes, to reduce their petrol bills or both. For some, even if the savings don’t cover the extra cost of the car, it will at least help to insulate them from sudden price spikes at the pump.
The Rebirth of Hybrids…
In the years since the hybrid came to existence, the Toyota Prius has become synonymous with the hybrid car, and all the associations that go along with it–for better and for worse. These blue emblems became so symbolic of the ‘green movement’ that a bit of hybrid car backlash started. This wasn’t just about product placement either because in Hollywood, television shows and movies used the Prius as part of their ‘props’. And driving a Prius suddenly became trendy for Hollywood celebrities even Jennifer Aniston and Demi Moore were spotted cruising along the street in a Prius. Hybrids were suddenly ‘cool’.
For the rest of the world, the hybrid car suddenly became widely accepted by consumers who would want to go green or save on their petrol budget. However, during that time, the price of hybrids was still rocking high, and many consumers were not ready to change the way they drive (well, that’s what they thought in the beginning).
There were questions that came up like why is it shaped that way? Do I have to change the way I drive? Why does it get so quiet– did it just stall? How do I replace the battery if it’s broken? Will this thing explode? Will I get an electric shock if i drive it in the rain? Sounds silly? Yeah maybe, but it’s true, a lot consumers had no idea what a hybrid car really is. And while consumers may line-up for the chance to spend a thousand ringgit on a new cell phone, spending a hundred times that much on a new type of car is a risky decision, especially if you don’t know a friend who owns a hybrid or a mechanic who knows how to repair a hybrid in case of a breakdown.
But as time passed by, consumers began to realize that driving hybrid cars turned out to be pretty much like driving a normal petrol or diesel powered car. As fear of the unknown wore-off, more hybrid cars hit the market, making them less ‘exotic’ and more mainstream; safety in numbers perhaps? And as the (then) fuel price was hitting the RM2 per litre mark, suddenly that huge fuel guzzler at home didn’t seem so desirable to drive around anymore. A hybrid car that can let you drive 21km/litre wasn’t desirable just because it had lower carbon emissions, it was desirable because drivers didn’t want to spend more on petrol than they did on their house payment every month! Just reasoning I think.
Hybrids become popular in Malaysia
In 2011, the Minister of International Trade and Industry announced that the government would offer 100% import duty exemption for electric or hybrid cars below 2,200 cc to promote the use of these alternative powered vehicles and to reduce emissions by 40%. This was a golden opportunity for consumers who were probably longing to own one, but were set back by the price tag to purchase a hybrid for their daily use or as a family car.
Hence Japanese automakers began heavily commercializing their hybrid models by increasing their hybrid options. Honda for example has at least 6 hybrid variants in their range. The Japanese automaker however, wasn’t alone. Even though Toyota may be the brand that most people associate with the history of hybrid cars, most of the world’s automakers have followed suit.
Can Hybrids really be fun to drive?
Sports cars, as a rule, are built for speed and fun, not fuel efficiency. And even now, buying a high-performance sports car, even with a hybrid engine, is not going to put you in the 21km/litre club. But hybrid engines are now being offered in many sports models, including some that will accelerate fast enough to take your breath away. Hybrid engine’d sport and luxury hybrid offerings in Malaysia include the Honda CR-Z, Porsche Cayenne S E Hybrid, Lexus LS, BMW Active Hybrid 7L, Mercedes S-Class hybrid and Infiniti Q70 Hybrid. So who says going green has to be boring?
A hybrid car can actually save you trips to the petrol station quite significantly and therefore reduce you fuel costs over the long run. Even if you get stuck in rush hour traffic everyday, hybrid cars use no petrol at all when stopped so you won’t be burning petrol in standstill traffic or waiting at the traffic lights. As the government is slowly lifting off its petrol subsidy, buying a hybrid is a great way to ease your monthly budget. We’ll get into the nitty-gritty details of these hybrid vehicles in our next article so stay tuned, but in the meantime, check out the list of hybrids currently available in Malaysia.
Hybrid cars available in Malaysia
*selling price excluding road tax and insurance