As automakers get better at making electrified cars, the line is going to start to blur between hybrids, extended-range electric vehicles and electric cars.
Take this Kia Optima Hybrid. The early hybrids could hardly attain or maintain any speed with the gas engine shut off. Soon, hybrids were able to maintain 25 mph on electric power alone and then the mid-40s. But the goal for any hybrid is to drive longer distances with their gas engine turned off.
It just makes sense. If the gasoline engine isn’t running, the car uses less fuel.
So we were somewhat surprised to watch the EV Mode light glow – at 80 mph – for brief stretches along I-94 near Ann Arbor after returning from a concert. The engine never stayed off for long, and even the hint of a hill caused the engine to restart.
What was truly amazing was the Optima’s complete seamlessness with which it transitioned back and forth between gasoline and electric power, even at freeway speeds. There is literally no way to discern when the engine starts, other than watching the tachometer lift off 0 rpm and EV Mode light go dark.
The gasoline-electric powertrain has come a long way in just 13 years since the first Honda Insight hit the U.S. market in 1999. (more…)