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Electric vehicles (EVs) have captured imaginations with their promise of emission-free driving and reduced dependence on fossil fuels. Yet, amidst this advancement, a notable shift is occurring within the EV industry: a growing emphasis on hybrid vehicles. This strategic pivot prompts a crucial question: Why the change? Well, there are several factors influencing this shift. Firstly, EV charging infrastructure expansion still lags, hindering widespread adoption. Secondly, despite decreasing prices and occasional discounts, EVs remain relatively expensive for many consumers compared to hybrids, offering a more accessible entry point into the green vehicle market.

Several companies, like Aston Martin, Mercedes-Benz, Bentley, and Polestar, have postponed their electrification timelines, with Aston Martin pushing theirs to 2026. Aston Martin aims to introduce a series of key hybrid models before launching its full-scale EV lineup. Similarly, Mercedes-Benz has delayed its electrification goals by five years. Bentley and Polestar are among the other companies also adjusting their plans for electrification.

Indian automakers like Toyota, Maruti, and Honda favor hybrids over electric cars. Maruti Suzuki plans to introduce mostly hybrids in the next five years, while Toyota aims to launch low-cost hybrid options for the Indian market. These companies advocate for incentives to make hybrids more affordable. Despite limited government support, incentives from other sources have led to the launch of more affordable hybrid models, increasing the hybrid market share from 0.5% in 2022 to 2% in 2023, according to industry estimates. 

Thus, in this article, we’ll delve into the rationale, and the key reasons behind EV companies’ pivot towards hybrids, examining the interplay of factors shaping the future of sustainable mobility. 

1] RELIABILITY 

Hybrids have surged in popularity due to their reputation for reliability, a trait that has resonated strongly with consumers seeking dependable transportation options. Unlike early models, modern hybrid vehicles offer seamless electric and gasoline power integration, resulting in smoother driving experiences.  The dual power sources also provide a safety net, ensuring that drivers can continue their long journey even if one power source encounters an issue. With hybrids, an internal combustion engine and an electric motor provide a backup system in case one fails. This redundancy minimizes the risk of being stranded during journeys due to power failures, offering drivers an added sense of security. In contrast, purely electric vehicles rely solely on battery power, making them more vulnerable to unexpected power outages or battery malfunctions.

Consequently, the dual power source configuration of hybrids enhances their reliability by providing a fallback mechanism that purely electric vehicles lack.

2] AFFORDABILITY 

Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) have gained favor among consumers, thanks in part to their affordability compared to electric vehicles (EVs).  Comparative pricing data from market researcher Jato Dynamics reveals that, on average, hybrid vehicles are priced at Rs 16.98 lakh, whereas electric vehicles come in at Rs 17.71 lakh. This indicates that hybrid vehicles are typically Rs 1 to 2 lakh cheaper than electric vehicles. As a result of this pricing discrepancy, hybrids dominated 12.6% of total passenger vehicle (PV) sales in January-November 2023, while EVs accounted for only 2.3% of the market share. 

3] EVs HAVE LESS CHARGING INFRASTRUCTURE 

While charging infrastructure for EVs is expanding, it’s still not as widespread as petrol stations, posing challenges for electric vehicle owners, especially on long journeys. In contrast, hybrids offer the convenience of refueling at any petrol station, making them more practical for areas with limited charging stations. This accessibility advantage is particularly beneficial for drivers in rural or remote areas where EV charging infrastructure may be scarce. Additionally, hybrids provide peace of mind for drivers concerned about range anxiety or facing unexpected delays in reaching charging points. As a result, hybrids continue to be a preferred choice for many consumers seeking a reliable and versatile vehicle option amidst the ongoing transition to electric mobility.

4] RANGE ANXIETY IN EVs

One of the primary concerns with fully electric vehicles is range anxiety, a fear that drivers may run out of charge before reaching their destination. This apprehension often stems from the limited charging infrastructure and longer charging times associated with EVs. However, hybrid cars offer a compelling solution to this issue. By combining the security of an internal combustion engine (ICE) with the efficiency of an electric motor, hybrids provide drivers with peace of mind during their journeys. With the ICE engine as a backup power source, drivers can confidently navigate longer trips without worrying about finding charging stations or experiencing range limitations. This hybrid technology bridges the gap between traditional gasoline-powered vehicles and fully electric models, offering a practical and versatile transportation option for consumers concerned about range anxiety.

5] ADVANTAGE OF REGENERATIVE BRAKING IN HYBRIDS 

Regenerative braking offers distinct advantages in hybrids compared to electric vehicles. Hybrids can seamlessly switch between regenerative braking and traditional friction braking, optimizing energy recapture across various driving conditions. This flexibility extends brake component lifespan and enhances overall efficiency. In contrast, electric vehicles solely rely on regenerative braking, which may not always provide sufficient braking force, potentially leading to increased wear on brake pads and reduced energy recapture efficiency. Thus, hybrids gain an edge in both performance and sustainability with their versatile braking systems.

6] ENVIRONMENT ISSUES IN EVs

Hybrid vehicles seamlessly switch between ICE engines and electric power to optimize efficiency, utilizing advanced control systems for smooth transitions. In contrast, electric vehicles (EVs) face challenges with their reliance on lithium-ion batteries, prized for their lightweight and energy-efficient properties. However, mining minerals like lithium and cobalt for these batteries carries significant environmental impact. Moreover, the production of EVs involves materials such as steel and plastics, contributing to pollution and energy consumption. So, with their dual-power capabilities and less environmental impact, hybrids remain a compelling option for eco-conscious drivers. 

7] TECHNOLOGY ISSUE IN HYBRIDS 

Electric vehicles face ongoing technological challenges, such as limited range and performance capabilities, which can lead to consumer hesitation. While companies are investing in research and development to improve EV technology, advancements take time and resources. For instance, Toyota’s ambitious goal of launching a car with a range of 1200 miles underscores the substantial effort required. In contrast, hybrids benefit from a longer presence in the market, which has allowed for brand recognition and established consumer trust. This familiarity with hybrid technology may make consumers more comfortable adopting hybrids over EVs until the latter’s technology matures further.

List Of Hybrid Cars Available In India

  1. Maruti Suzuki Invicto
  2. Volvo XC90 
  3. Toyota Innova Hycross
  4. BMW XM 
  5. Lexus NX
  6. Audi A8 
  7. Bentley Flying Spur
  8. Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door Coupe

Survey: Growing Preference for Hybrids and PHEVs Over BEVs

According to a recent survey conducted by the Economic Times, there has been a notable shift in consumer preferences towards hybrid and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) compared to battery electric vehicles (BEVs). The survey revealed that in 2024, approximately 36% of respondents expressed a preference for hybrids or PHEVs, up from 32% in 2023. This marks a significant increase of 4 percentage points, twice the growth rate observed among those inclined towards BEVs.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, the growing preference for hybrid electric vehicles reflects the recognition of their numerous benefits as noted above.  However, while hybrids are gaining traction, purely electric vehicles’ significance cannot be overlooked. Numerous companies are in the process of developing their best electric vehicles.  Ultimately, only time will reveal which technology emerges as the frontrunner in shaping the future of sustainable transportation.

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