I haven’t made a secret of the fact that I’m not sold on hybrid or full electric vehicles.
While I believe cutting back on our use of oil can only be a good thing, doing so through the use of chemical-laden battery packs and coal-produced electricity kind of misses the point of helping the environment.
Since this hybrid hype began many years ago, I’ve been a staunch believer in the humble internal combustion engine. Many automakers believed the ICE could be refined to offer the kind of fuel savings the planet, and the planet’s drivers, need. Smaller-displacement engines and turbocharging can go a long way in boosting MPGs while keeping costs down. Why invent new technology when we can improve existing technology? I saw two stories this weekend that helped cement that belief.
First, from Jalopnik, comes a report that another Fisker Karma has caught on fire, this one in a grocery store parking lot in California. That’s the second Karma to publicly go up in flames, after the EV was suspected as the cause of a garage fire earlier this year in Houston. The company has since recalled 239 Karmas for a leaky hose that could lead to a fire. And who could forget the beginning of 2012, when the Chevrolet Volt was the focus of a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration probe into fires.
In all truth, the risk of fire in electric cars probably isn’t any greater than in gas-powered cars. The technology, though, is still being perfected, while the gas engine is already capable of everything modern drivers need: It has a long driving range, is easy to refuel and is cheaper to operate, buy and maintain.
Even hybrid-loving Japan is slowly realizing it may have turned its back on the ICE too soon. A story at The Truth About Cars referenced a report from The Nikkei which reported on the “trend” of internal combustion engines gaining popularity in the Land of the Rising Sun. People there are beginning to notice that they can save money on fuel in relation to vehicle prices.
Volkswagen, which hasn’t jumped on the hybrid train, has seen sales in Japan rise 22 percent this year. Nissan will introduce a 1.2-liter supercharged gas engine in its subcompact Note next month, which will get about the same mileage as the hybrid Honda Fit but cost some $2,000 less.
Here in the U.S., the hybrid take rate is down to about 2.8 percent of all vehicles sold, while companies like Ford, Mazda and Volkswagen continue to see success in smaller, turbo-assisted gas engines.
Which side of the road are you on: EV/hybrid cars or turbocharged gas-powered cars?