Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Hybrid driving

The car I picked up today for the Christmas week was a Toyota Yaris Hybrid Automatic, from a rental company called GreenMotion. First time I've ever driven a hybrid, but it's time to get serious about reducing environmental impact of my motoring. I wrote a while back about wanting my next car to be a pure electric, but until this gets a bit more practical, I'll dip my toe in the water by hiring a hybrid.

Shock number one - no key. The car senses the presence of the electronic door-opening plipper, and as long as it's somewhere inside, and you have your foot on the brake, it will let you start at the press of a button. This is no problem in a hire car, but imagine after two or three years of ownership of a car such as this and the nagging worry that the one day battery will fail and the radio signal will be too weak to allow you to start the car. Anyway, I press the POWER button, put the car in 'D', release handbrake, slowly release the footbrake... and - shock number two - the car moves forward in near-silence. Out of the car park, out on to the main road, the car is being powered by its electric motor. A light on the dashboard alerts me to the fact that I'm in EV (electric vehicle) mode.

Only once I'm over the second roundabout and heading towards the motorway does the petrol engine take over. And then everything's back to what I'd expect from a Toyota Yaris. Driving to my father's house, I did some cross-country to escape the choked-up M25, cutting through Rickmansworth, Northwood and Harrow, and picking up some petrol en route, given the car was hired empty-to-empty. Running (so I thought) on fumes the last few miles, the electric motor powered the Yaris ably at suburban speeds below 30 mph (50 km/h). I needn't have worried too much - I poured in 30.27 litres of petrol, the Yaris Hybrid has a 36 litre tank capacity.

Another feature of the Yaris Hybrid is the fact that if you pre-register it with Transport for London, you can drive for free in the capital's Congestion Charge Zone. Pumping out 75 grams of carbon dioxide for every kilometre travelled, the Icon version of the Yaris Hybrid - when fitted with 15" wheels - complies with TfL's Go Ultra Low specifications for a ULED (Ultra Low Emission Discount). Paying £10 a year rather than £11.50 for each time you drive into Central London, owning a car like this for those who still insist on driving into town.

Over the next week I'll be driving this car intensively - tomorrow to Derbyshire, then on Christmas Day up to Cheshire, then back down to London via Derbyshire - the usual route - M1 and A6. Tomorrow I'll also do some urban driving around Ealing. It will be interesting to see how the hybrid concept works in practice, whether fuel economy will be superior to standard petrol or diesel-powered cars. The last few cars I've hired all had engines of less than 1.2 litre capacity (Fiat 500 Hyundai I10); can the hybrid better them in terms of performance and economy?

Given Toyota's long (the first Prius was launched as long ago as 1997!) experience with hybrids, there should be a no unreliability issues to worry about. Our own Yaris, five years old, is flawless.

My only real gripe with the Yaris is that it is viciously, monumentally ugly. It looks as though a Sumo wrestler sat on the bonnet in the factory, crumpling the sheet metal. The car looks like its sucking a lemon. This seems to be the house style of Toyota/Lexus at the moment - and I don't like it. This is the facelifted third generation of Yaris - ours is the second, and to my eye at least, the most attractive. The first generation was too rounded, and rear visibility was poor, hence most have bumps in their rear beam. The third was initially OKish, but the facelift moves in the direction in the current fashion for creases.

My other gripe concerns the entire automotive industry - the growing bulk of cars. The first generation Yaris was 3.615m long. This one is 4.115m long, So - 17 years after the launch of the 'B' segment ('supermini') Yaris, the facelifted third iteration of this vehicle has added 500mm - half a metre - over 20 inches - in length. The current Yaris is now just 5cm shorter than the 'bug-eye' 'C' segment ('compact') Corolla from the late '90s.

But this car's only mine for a week, I hired it for practicality, not looks.

Anyway, a fuller review of the hybrid will appear in a few posts time, after I've had several hundred miles of driving it.

This time two years ago:
Convenience vs. Privacy

This time three years ago:
The messy joys of pomegranate eating

This time five years ago:
Yuletide break

This time six years ago:
Washing the snow away (temperature rises by 14C in 12 hours)

1 comment:

Bob said...

Michael - good to see you are having an experience with a hybrid. Not sure you know but we bought a Prius last year. Yes, the quiet is amazing and stuns everyone around as they are few and far between here. The push button is novel for us and was easy to get used to. I believe you will notice that driving in stop and go and in town the gas mileage is superlative. On the highway (at least with the Prius) it really drinks as the gas engine is a bit small for the size of auto and running it at 100-130kmph really makes it work.

All in all, we really like ours