Even though they’ve been around for well over a decade now, hybrids still have that ‘new technology’ feel. Consumers continue to be apprehensive to hybrid technology and there’s plenty of misinformation surrounding it.
To debunk some myths, most hybrids do not need to be plugged in, and it’s also not true that they are more efficient around town, with models like the Prius actually getting better highway fuel economy than in the city.
Still, from quirky gearshifters on cars like the Prius, to the unusual feeling of regenerative brakes, hybrid cars remain on the cusp of mainstream, but not for long. In the near future as many as 11 new hybrid models will hit the market, ranging from the family sedans to high-tech futuristic supercars.
1. 2014 Chevrolet Impala eAssist
Upcoming Buick and Chevrolet vehicles offer a distinctly different type of hybrid technology than we’re used to. The eAssist system is technically a mild-hybrid, which means that the car is never powered by electricity alone. The eAssist system uses its battery and electric motor to help with idle start-stop, on-demand electric power steering, and for a boost when accelerating.
To get a better idea of how important eAssist is to GM, we talked to Stephen Poulos, a chief engineer on eAssist.
“eAssist is purposefully not trying to go head-to-head with our full hybrid competitors,” Poulos said. “We’re trying to redefine a base powertrain, which will be available at a lower cost, and offer better fuel efficiency than some other base vehicles.”
The eAssist system uses the exact same management software as the extended range electric vehicle, the Chevrolet Volt. Poulos made it clear that eAssist can scale better to different vehicles than a full hybrid system can, meaning that there is less compromise when converting a regular gas-powered vehicle into an eAssist model.
You can already see it in action on the Chevrolet Malibu Eco, Buick Regal and Lacrosse and you’ll find it in the upcoming 2014 Chevrolet Impala. GM might say that eAssist is cheaper than traditional full hybrids, but we’re seeing the 2013 Malibu Eco with eAssist, cost $25,235, which isn’t that much cheaper than other full-hybrid family sedans on the market. It also doesn’t help that the Malibu Eco gets just 25 mpg in the city, and 37 mpg on the highway, while full-hybrid offerings manage up to 40 mpg on the highway and 35 mpg in city driving.
Poulos did mention that eAssist is modular enough to be used in other vehicles, and that GM is investigating putting eAssist in vehicles other than mid and full-sized sedans.