There is no question about it – we have reached a tipping point in motoring where manufacturers, suppliers and consumers are all going to have to re-examine how they drive. We’re not talking about safety issues or speeding here, but how our love-affair with the internal combustion engine is affecting the planet, and what we can do to be more environmentally friendly as responsible motorists.
Choosing eco-friendly alternatives to the traditional petrol or diesel engine is a bit of a balancing act, though. While the impact on the planet and the concept of sustainable motoring have to be the primary guiding factors, you still need to ensure that the consumer is getting a product that not only feels like a ‘real car’, but also performs well, too. The most popular compromise (for want of a better phrase) is the hybrid.
A hybrid car combines two distinct types of power, most often electric (or gas) and petrol, in tandem. The regular petrol engine drives an electric generator that powers an electric motor, giving the driver the choice of using one type of power over the other. Usually, this means that around town and for city driving the electric motor is engaged (which in turn reduces the amount of pollution in built-up areas), while on longer journeys the petrol engine is used to give you the range you need to get to your destination.
The advantage of hybrid cars is that they give you the option to use a petrol engine to expand your range for longer journeys. The disadvantage? Well, you still haven’t moved entirely away from fossil fuels to power your vehicle.
While huge leaps forward in electric cars have been made in the last few years, there are still some challenges. The biggest is that the infrastructure to support a large electric car fleet just hasn’t been created yet. That means charging points (unless you’re in the heart of the city) are few and far between.
Range has improved, but electric cars are still limited to shorter distances than a hybrid, which makes the hybrid option more attractive for the average motorist.
There’s also the cost – compare hybrid cars vs electric cars and you’ll find that electric cars are expensive. The need for replacement batteries every ten years or so also means that long-term running costs for electric cars are more than you might expect.
You’d assume with such a rich source of oil on our doorstep that we’d be sticking with the traditional combustion engine for the foreseeable future in the UAE. However, Al Futtaim Honda has been leading the way in the last couple of years in convincing true petrol-heads that you can get just as much efficiency, excitement and all-round drivability with a hybrid as you can with a petrol car.
You’re also getting more for your money, as the most technologically advanced hybrid cars from Honda now use a system called regenerative braking, that actually charges your batteries every time you apply the brakes. For city driving where you’re often in stop-start traffic, this is a real game-changer when it comes to finding the most eco-friendly car for around town.
Top of the list is a better range for batteries and a commitment to effective and efficient recycling. Batteries are not known for their environmentally-friendly contents, so Honda has pledged to find new and more sustainable methods of battery recycling to minimise both cost and environmental impact.
Honda is also working actively to help develop a better charging system for plug-ins and hybrids cars in the UAE, as well as making this cleaner, greener option more affordable for everyone.
While we haven’t seen the complete demise of petrol cars just yet, expect to see more hybrid cars and eco-friendly driving options opening up in the coming years, with Honda right at the forefront of research and development. At Al Futtaim Honda, we think it’s going to be an exciting time for the motor industry!