2017 — THE YEAR THE PLUG-IN HY­BRID AR­RIVES?

New Straits Times - - Cars Bikes & Trucks - Speed limit eas­ily . WHAT? JUST 31 KM OF ELEC­TRIC RANGE? YOU COULD GO ON FOR MONTHS WITH­OUT FILL­ING A TANK OF PETROL. and 42.6km daily com­mute dis­tance for male and fe­male drive re­spec­tively in Malaysia. THE PLUG IN HY­BRID HAS TRULY AR­RIVED.

AR­MAN AH­MAD cbt@nst. com. my

IT’s funny with tech­nol­ogy, how it reaches a tip­ping point. The first cel­lu­lar phones ap­peared in the 1970s, but it wasn’t un­til the 2000s that almost ev­ery­one owned one. The In­ter­net ex­isted in some form or other since the 1960s, but it was only in the late 1990s that it fi­nally be­came what it is to­day.

Ear­lier this week, we drove the new Mercedes C350e to Port Dick­son, from Puchong.

We were par­tic­i­pat­ing in a fuel ef­fi­ciency chal­lenge or­gan­ised by Mercedes-Benz Malaysia. The C350e is the lat­est hy­brid sedan from the Ger­man man­u­fac­turer. It’s a plug-in hy­brid with 6.38 kWh worth of bat­tery in the rear of the car. Plug in hy­brids are ba­si­cally hy­brid cars that you can charge with a plug that you can in­sert into the elec­tric socket at home, or any other premises with an elec­tric out­let. And they are the way of the fu­ture.

This hy­brid is rated with a com­bined fuel con­sump­tion of just 2.1 l/ 100 km on the Euro­pean NEDC cy­cle. At the same time, it has more than enough power to sat­isfy your need for speed. With 275hp and amaz­ing 600Nm of torque from the com­bined petrol/elec­tric driv­e­train, this car is no slouch. Ac­cel­er­a­tion fig­ures are im­pres­sive, with a 0-100kph time of 5.9 sec­onds. It can do double the na­tional Fully charged, that’s the dis­tance the C350e can travel. This fig­ure will no doubt get the EV naysayer brigade in a frenzy. But the seem­ingly small range is not the en­tire story. Dur­ing our drive to Port Dick­son, one of the cars man­aged to drive 44km out of the 91km dis­tance on just elec­tric(the car has re­gen­er­a­tive brak­ing and the bat­tery is also recharged by the engine). This works out to 48.3 per cent of the jour­ney. Ap­prox­i­mately half the dis­tance.

With a wall socket at home, the bat­tery will be fully charged in two and a half hours. If you have a park­ing bay near a socket at work, you can drive home with a full 31km range. Is your daily com­mute less than 31km one way? If you travel less than this dis­tance, it is the­o­ret­i­cally pos­si­ble to never fire up the petrol engine for the en­tire work week. If you are a her­mit that can af­ford a Mercedes and have no form of so­cial life and travel just to and from work, heck you could go for months on end with­out re­fill­ing your petrol tank.

It may seem far­fetched, but hard fig­ures show that this may be en­tirely plau­si­ble.

Pus­pakom records mileage on pas­sen­ger cars dur­ing in­spec­tions, and their data tells us that the av­er­age pas­sen­ger car trav­els 24,000km in a year. That’s just 66km a day. Pro­vided that there is also a charger in the of­fice, the Merc is al­ready almost there. The C350e can al­ready do a 62km round trip if it is charged in the of­fice.

But the truth, a high per­cent­age of driv­ers may be driv­ing shorter com­mutes. I drive a to­tal of just 30km daily.

Ac­cord­ing to one pa­per from a lo­cal uni­ver­sity, Av­er­age An­nual Kilo­me­ters Trav­elled (AAKT) for male driv­ers and fe­male driv­ers in Malaysia stand at 16,059.80km and 15,425.35km, re­spec­tively. This works out to an av­er­age of 44km There was a time when these plug in hy­brids were a nov­elty. But that time is long gone now. The new gen­er­a­tion of plug-in hy­brids are be­com­ing a prac­ti­cal re­al­ity. There is a long list of au­to­mo­bile man­u­fac­tur­ers that al­ready have plug-ins in their lineup. This in­cludes Volvo, BMW and Audi.

Many agree that PHEV is the way to go. It is an in­ter­me­di­ate step be­fore the en­tire in­dus­try moves fully elec­tric.

Cur­rently, it’s mainly the premium car­mak­ers that have plug in hy­brids in their line­ups in Malaysia. But world­wide, Honda, Toy­ota, Nis­san, even Hyundai now have plug-ins on of­fer.

There are many cyn­ics, but the fact is hy­brid and elec­tric tech­nol­ogy has made huge leaps and bounds over the years.

They’re also be­com­ing more af­ford­able. The Merc’s RM299,000 ask­ing price may still be a lit­tle steep for the av­er­age Malaysian, but tech­nol­ogy has a way of trick­ling down to the lower end of the mar­ket. Just like fuel-in­jec­tion, ABS, EBD and almost ev­ery other car tech­nol­ogy, one-day, even plug-in hy­brid tech­nol­ogy may soon be avail­able to most Malaysians.

We just hope TNB has a plan to deal with the added elec­tric load.

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