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High time for Hybrids

High time for Hybrids

Ardie Lopez

Toyota shows off fleet of HEVs in media drive to Subic

If there’s one thing that we can be sure of, it’s that technology will barrel through no matter what the timeline is like in one’s society. In ours, taking full advantage of the benefits of alternative energy sources in the automotive industry has been incredibly delayed. We can pin this to the mistakes and misdeeds of some of our past and current leaders and those in the private sector who align their vested interests with them.

That public transportation is still a huge mess, and that band-aid solutions to our flawed and inadequate infrastructure to properly handle that are the gargantuan obstacles that we need to overcome to make fully Electric Vehicles (EV’s) truly viable (prohibitive costs + huge lack of charging facilities), what’s a realistic alternative? You know- over driving to work with a huge LPG tank strapped on your compartment in urban post-apocalyptic style?

Hybrid vehicles have been available in the Philippines for well over ten years, and back then they were only within the line-ups of premium luxury brands, and it’s only quite recently that hybrids are making a real resurgence with the current vehicles on offer, and in the mainstream category of automobiles at that.

Unsurprisingly, Toyota has an entire lineup of HEVs (Hybrid Electric Vehicles). Now we’re talking.

How’s that again?

As a refresher, an HEV is a vehicle powered by both an electric motor and an internal combustion engine. They work in conjunction to propel and power it seamlessly, in various degrees and in different driving situations. What completes this compact in-car energy ecosystem is either a Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH) or Lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery, which powers the electric motor, and in turn is mainly charged by the gasoline engine. Generally speaking, at low speeds, it’s the electric motor that propels and powers the car (including the AC, entertainment and lighting system) that’s run by the battery. Upon acceleration, or under other heavy-load driving situations (e.g. overtaking, or plying uphill slopes) it’s the gasoline engine that takes over, charging the battery at the same time. But, the battery can also be charged via regenerative braking, i.e. every time you step on the brakes. So one cool HEV benefit is while crawling through stop-and-go heavy traffic, you actually save on fuel instead of wasting it. The biggest benefit though, is that you run, drive and maintain your HEV like you would a regular car, and not have to be dependent on a charging station, and adding trip planning to manage battery power (it’s a little more complicated than keeping your Smartphone juiced-up), and still benefit from better mileage and lower emissions, on top of smoother drives.

Hybrids, no longer high breeds

While small cars are making a killing due to stellar fuel prices of late due to their diminutive but ample engines, there is of course a large chunk of the market who’d steer away from having to compromise on power, space, actual dimensions (sense of security in terms of vehicle size), and the prestige and satisfaction of driving the actual car they want and still be able to save on fuel consumption. So although in terms of price point, Toyota HEVs are understandably more expensive than your regular non-HEV, Toyota has made HEVs a lot more accessible, with better performance (continuously improving Hybrid technology) and more options with their current HEV entire lineup.

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Hybrids uncaged, drivers engaged

Finally, Toyota rolled out its first real media drive since this pandemic hit, and we jumped on it. In spite of the “back to normal” general atmosphere, our sizable group of motoring Journalists still went through the requisite RT-PCR tests for safety, before being deployed with their fleet of HEVs, namely the Camry, Corolla Altis, Corolla Cross and RAV4- all Hybrid versions (there’s also the Prius, but we didn’t have that in the drive). We took off from Quezon City and swiftly headed up North for a quick photo op at the newly constructed Sacobia Bridge in New Clark City, then dashed towards Tarlac for a late lunch. Switching rides along the way so that everyone gets a feel of each Toyota HEV nameplate, that half-day drive was enough for each of us to get some good basis for comparison, in terms of handling feel, all-around performance, comfort levels and fuel efficiency, over your regular car. On a loose average, Toyota HEVs delivered 30%-40% more mileage. That, on top of better NVH levels especially at low speeds and low-load cruising, and well, a bit of a feel-good pat on the back knowing you’re being kinder to the environment with your HEV’s reduced toxic emissions.

The cabin of Camry HEV

I spent more time with the nameplate that was more suited to my demographic, the Toyota Camry HEV. Aside from the fact that this iteration really strikes me as good looking, the Camry should be by now a hall-of-famer with the number of Car of the Year accolades it’s scooped up through the decades as an all-time exceptional medium-sized sedan in all respects. True enough, the stately comfort, effortless handling and solid performance were only made better by it being a Hybrid. You can watch me gush about it online, in an upcoming video on Toyota’s HEV Drive on Mobility PH.

So, while EVs are certainly here, realistically speaking, its time hasn’t come just yet. HEVs on the other hand, particularly Toyota’s, HEV been here all this time and HEV gotten even better. They really HEV got it all covered.