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Can hybrids be "performance" vehicles?

PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAPosts: 5,854
edited April 18 in Lexus
We're still in the early stages of hybrid technology, but we're already seeing vehicles like the Lexus RX400h which people are expecting both the power and mileage performance out of. That brings up the question...

Can a hybrid really be a performance vehicle?

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  • deweydewey Posts: 5,243
    Hybrid technology in the future must weigh less in order for hybrids to be labeled a performance vehicle!


    Performance is not only about high hp and torque! That is only half the equation. The other half is agility and handling. The heavy weight of hybrid technology subdues a vehicle's handling/agility. That kills the thrill of doing some exciting manuevers.

    Performance diesel vehicles are not a contradiction since they are lighter . This is an explanation why BMW and Audi produce diesel sport sedans.

    The funniest example of a hybrid performance vehicle is a Honda Accord Hybrid.
    It is heavy, front wheel drive, not nimble and no manual---all features that contradict what a performance sport sedan should be!
  • rorrrorr Posts: 3,630
    Agree 100% - in theory.

    However, if we consider the mentality of the current marketplace (and probable future marketplace), buyers focus on the numbers. "Mileage" junkies focus on the EPA numbers. "Performance" junkies focus on hp numbers. I can't tell you how many times over in the "Ody vs. Sienna" thread that the pro-Honda folks kept focusing in on the Ody hp advantage while completely ignoring the Sienna 400 lb weight advantage. Weight just isn't on the radar screen; hp numbers are.

    So, from a future hybrid stand, does this mean that future hybrids may have fewer and lighter batteries, sacrificing energy capacity for lighter weight? Possibly; lighter and fewer batteries could also cut down on the cost (both up front and at replacement) as well as aid in packaging. The downside would be that the ICE would be relied on to a greater extent in stop and go traffic.
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 28,850
    There are two hybrids that are considered good performers. The Accord Hybrid and the RX400h. As the new owners are finding out, they are not both high performance & economical at the same time. You can do either, not both at the same time. As long as a person is happy with that limitation in a vehicle, no problem. I have too much difficulty nursing a high performance car along at 65 MPH. Heck I drive our old Lexus 85 MPH to keep up with traffic. At 80-85 MPH the old LS400 still gets 27 MPG on a 200 mile roundtrip. What can you get with the RX400h & HAH at that speed?
  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAPosts: 5,854
    I'm noticing some complaints about mileage for the Lexus RX400h, but then again, it's an SUV and I would expect that the power/performance vs mileage tradeoff is in full effect there.

    Sudden thought... if hybrid "sports cars" did appear on the scene, how long do you think it would be before people were racing them? :)

    Seriously, it's going to take some kind of radical breakthrough in battery technology or the discovery of some alternate means of supplementing the gasoline engine before we get true performance hybrids, isn't it??

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  • sinepmansinepman Posts: 137
    Isn't the HAH similar to the normal version? I thought the suspension was the same as well. Agree on the manual too, but most Corvettes are sold with automatics so go figure!!!!
  • deweydewey Posts: 5,243
    Hybrid performance vehicles are a compromise. Both contradict each others and when you press the pedal hard you find out that those reported EPA figures are a pipe dream. Drive the car at a lethargic pace and you finally you achieve EPA figures.

    So my question is: What is the point of performance-hybrids?

    My next car will be a uncompromised benchmark car. It will either be a benchmark fuel miser(diesel or hybrid) or a benchmark performance car. Certainly not a hybrid performance car:You end up getting the worst of both worlds.

    IMO a good fuel miser would be a Prius/VW Jetta TDI. I would prefer the Prius because most my driving is in the city.

    Performance--the new 06 BMW 3 series. Also it has 13% improved fuel consumption compare to the 05 model. Not bad! BUT fuel economy is not the reason I would buy such a vehicle.
  • daysailerdaysailer Posts: 711
    I think the hurdles are market (read price) driven more than technological. Take for example the Insight (yeah, I know, it's FWD but bear with me). It weighs under 1900lb so fairly modest gains in hp could reap big benefits and I doub't that there's any insurmountable barrier to upgrading its suspension and brakes. Imagine what even adding forced induction to the existing engine might accomplish. the bigger obstacle is to sell it at a marketable price absent the manufacturer's subsidy.

    Whether true economy or sporting dynamics are the objective, cost remains the issue.
  • benderofbowsbenderofbows Posts: 544
    Exactly- adding existing hybrid technology to a vehicle is not an effective way to increase performance. It would be much more cost-effective to pursue conventional means of adding power such as engine tuning, forced induction or vehicle weight reduction.

    If you drive your hybrid very gently you may recover the extra cost of the hybrid technology sometime near the end of the vehicles' life expectancy through fuel cost savings. If you drive it for performance, you'll never get that extra money back because your mileage won't increase much.
  • benderofbowsbenderofbows Posts: 544
    But why start with a hybrid car? How would an Insight be a better platform than a regular (cheaper but equally powerful) Civic for turbocharging?
  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAPosts: 5,854
    Well, those modest gains in HP would be offset somewhat by the upgrades in suspension and brakes (read: weight) wouldn't they?

    I'd agree that at the moment, price is a big factor. My personal opinion is that the premium you pay for the current hybrid offerings (vs the non-hybrid version of the same vehicle) is simply too high a cost. I can imagine what the first hybrid "sport" offerings are going to try and pry out of my wallet! :cry:

    That being said, time SHOULD bring the cost of all this down.

    And maybe it's just a matter of perspective too. Wouldn't a race between evenly matched hybrid vehicles have just as much "racing" in it as a race between evenly matched NASCAR vehicles? Certainly would be less raw power involved, and the vehicles couldn't compete with each other, but then again, a great high school football game is still a great game even though the worst NFL team would crush either squad involved!

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  • rorrrorr Posts: 3,630 far as I know, EVERY hybrid currently on the market uses a CVT.

    Personally, any 'performance' car I buy will have 3 pedals.

    OTOH.......consider this for street performance cars: the new Mustang GT has 300hp, the new GTO has 400hp. But what % of the time does the car actually DELIVER this much power? Very little. So, with a hybrid, the gas engine could deliver somewhat less power (better for economy) for the majority of the time that the engine is just loafing, yet be able to offer short bursts of high performance through the hybrid powertrain.
  • daysailerdaysailer Posts: 711
    But that overlooks the real issue. If the objective is to reduce the aggregate fuel consumption of our vehicles, there must be vehicles that satisfy market demands while achieving better fuel efficiency than an otherwise comparable vehicle. These vehicles won't achieve the best possible fuel efficiency but the overall fleet efficiency will still be improved. OTOH, if maximum fuel efficiency remained the overriding objective of hybrid design, relegating their purchase to a relatively small group of buyers, the net improvement will be inconsequential.
  • daysailerdaysailer Posts: 711
    Actually, The Insight and HCH are available with "real" transmissions.
  • rorrrorr Posts: 3,630

    I was wrong and you are absolutely correct. I knew the Prius was only available CVT and that the HCH/Insight were available CVT; and made the giant assumption that they were ONLY available as CVT.
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 28,850
    Most of the Insights sitting on the lots are CVT. The manual transmission Insights get bought up pretty fast. Maybe swap the engine with the V6 from the Accord. What a screamer that would be. ;)
  • deweydewey Posts: 5,243
    So why is it whenever you hear about a new and upcoming hybrid the words performance is used as much as gas savings?

    I guess it is all about marketing!

    Combine the following two points below together and Toyota/Honda begin to see $$$$ signs:

    1)Higher profit margins for performance hybrids than what can be earned on a Prius/Civic

    2) The Horsepower addiction of North Americans!

    If you add the two points above together is it any wonder that Toyota/Honda will market their performance/hybrids as if it can be driven like a NASCAR car and consume gas like a Insight? That as most forum members know is a load of bunk

    Everytime I read a review about the Hybrid Accord or the hybrid SUVs from Toyota there seems to be a consistent conclusion. If you drive the performance hybrid at a gradual pace like your Great-Aunt Esther would, then you may get sensational gas mileage. Otherwise forget it!

    So back to my question: Why bother buying a performance hybrid?? :confuse:

  • rorrrorr Posts: 3,630
    You've asked two questions, not one.

    Your first question was why is it that one hears about performance as much as economy in reference to new hybrids?

    That one's easy to answer: because new hybrids are NOT all about maximizing economy; they are about meeting the performance expectations of Americans AND providing somewhat better economy. Why is this? Because a vehicle with an extremely heavy emphasis on economy in lieu of economy mixed w/ performance sells poorly in the US. Most American's image (rightly or wrongly) of 'hybrids' is some dinky little tin can puttering along in the slow lane driven by some eco-dweed w/ a 'Save the Whales' bumper sticker. This is an image that the automakers are anxious to overcome (obviously); therefore, they will manufacture vehicles which are still capable of good performance and/or still loaded to the gills with all the creature comforts of home AND which are capable of somewhat better mileage than a non-hybrid version of the same vehicle.

    Your second question is "Why bother buying a performance hybrid??"

    Not sure how to answer that since MY idea of a 'performance' hybrid is likely different from yours. In my view, there is currently no such thing as a 'performance' hybrid on the market (ie. a vehicle with NO expectation of increased economy but an increase in performance ONLY).
  • gagricegagrice San DiegoPosts: 28,850
    So back to my question: Why bother buying a performance hybrid??

    I agree, why bother. Unless the added performance is a big plus for you. The RX400h & HAH are not doing real great on the mileage expected. I think if a person researched the hybrids before buying they would know that the mileage claims are not possible if you drive the car as performance cars are designed to be driven. If you want a fast Accord you would be way ahead of the game getting a V6 and beefing it up. Then you don't have all the added weight and complexity to cause you grief 5 years down the road. The only motive I see is feeling green, while you continue to fill OPEC bank accounts.
  • larsblarsb Posts: 8,204
    quote Gagrice-"The RX400h & HAH are not doing real great on the mileage expected."-end quote

    Careful there.......that statement WAS TRUE a couple of months ago, but right now, with warmer weather, break-in time, and user education, those numbers are improving.

    One driver got 48.1 MPG on a hwy trip in an HAH, and over at our favorite unmentionable site for hybrid info, about 38% of the HAH drivers are reporting EPA or better, with that number getting higher day by day.

    Another driver reported 38 MPG for a hwy trip in his RX400h.

    So it's NOT the technology that is the problem - it's the drivers and their particular circumstances that are dictating the MPG received.

    Another RX400h owner:

    "Well I've had my 400h for two weeks now and have already taken a decent road trip from SF to Oregon and I'm averaging between 26-27 on every tank."

    So getting that much from a "performance" 4500 pound crossover SUV is pretty darn good.
  • deweydewey Posts: 5,243
    My main point is that a hybrid-performance vehicles do not fulfill the goal of gas efficiency as well as they achieve 0-60mph .

    But not only are they flawed in terms of gas efficiency but they are also flawed in being a performance vehicle. As I mentioned previous a good performance car should have superb handling/agility. The cumbersome weight of hybrid is definitey a killer in terms of handling.

    Unless hybrid technology involves less weight---the best alternative for gas efficeint perfromance vehicles would be turbo-diesel, not hybrid!
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