2017 — THE YEAR THE PLUG-IN HYBRID ARRIVES?
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.