Hippie vans and plug-in hybrids

Popular Mechanic's Senior Automotive Editor Mike Allen raises a question in his biweekly Mechanics Diary that is rarely broached by auto writers: How about cars with less power?

The automobile industry, using advertising which runs into the billions of dollars each year, sets the pace. A pace that suggests we drive in a world of open roads and no speed limits, what one car maker calls "zoom, zoom." In reality, most driving is a modestly paced, crowded trudge from home to work and back again. As car makers contemplate and begin producing what could be a commuter's dream car - a plug-in hybrid - Allen asks if they will insist on unnecessarily large and powerful engines.

Reflecting on the 1200 cc, 40hp engine that powered the VW hippie van of his youth, he wonders why PHEV engineers are all insisting on a larger engine in a new-fangled vehicle that won't even use it much of the time. A smaller yet sufficient ICE functioning as a generator to keep batteries charged (and passengers heated) after the grid-supplied power has been depleted would be less expensive, less gasoline-consuming, and less polluting. For a significant share of the new car market, less has already become the new more. The Honda Accord Hybrid was discontinued when consumers rejected a power hybrid; they wanted greater fuel efficiency. With a year and a half wait time for a Smart car at one California Smart dealer, the writing may be on the wall.

[Source: Popular Mechanics]

Share This Photo X