Mention the word hybrid in the automotive context and more than likely, the reaction around you will be the stereotyped image of a Japanese commuter car that’s more attuned to sipping fuel than giving a car guy an exhilarating drive. And that wouldn’t be far from reality, as it’s cars like the Prius that have made hybrid cars an acceptable alternative to cars running on gasoline, diesel or LPG alone. Millions of Prii have been sold by Toyota and that wouldn’t be the case if the car did not live up to the expectations of consumers.
Although high performance hybrid-electrics look to be fairly common nowadays, it was cars like the Tesla and Karma that opened the eyes of enthusiasts to the possibilities of the sporting electric car. Now, manufacturers from GMC to Porsche have offerings like the CR-Z, the Cayenne SUV, the Sierra medium truck and the RAV. In effect hybrids have come of age and a little expenditure on aftermarket accessories is all a new owner needs to remove that cookie-cutter look from his/her green car.
Before we dismiss the new crop of hybrids are anything but boring, consider that electric motors produce their torque from zero rpm. In a street car or SUV, torque is what makes the vehicle accelerate hard and fast from a stop. In the urban jungle, this is exactly what you need to pass those pesky cabs or close gaps in traffic. Electric motors have these in abundance and in fact surpass small engines in this aspect. Actually, even big engines. In a recent video posted on YouTube, a Tesla Model S sedan out-accelerated a BMW F10 M5 to 100 miles per hour – two out of three times. And the Tesla S isn’t the fastest-accelerating hybrid out there. At the moment, the king of the hybrid hill is the Infiniti M35h. So the performance is there. And remember, unlike a pure electric, a hybrid still has an internal combustion engine to help power the car and charge the batteries. So you can still take that road trip and blast down that winding road. With hundreds of dollars left over to splurge on refueling yourself, instead of pouring all that money down the gas tank. Or enough money left over to equip your hot hybrid with a performance suspension.
One aspect of traditional performance cars that hybrids will never be able to copy is the beautiful sound of a highly tuned engine. Some manufacturers are reportedly trying to develop aural systems that will help mitigate the loss of that audible symphony. Certainly, aftermarket accessories like exhaust systems will suffer from slow sales. It remains to be seen though how that will be accepted by the public. What’s a fact at this point is that high performance hybrid electrics are here. If manufacturer’s offerings are any indication, it seems that there’s enough interest in these cars to keep on developing them.