Two into one equals hybrid

Peter Carr

We – in our enjoyable retirement village – have bitten the bullet to reduce to a single car. We make no excuse for hitherto desiring the use of two vehicles and have worked hard through our professional lives to be able to afford what some would deem to be a luxury.

But the time has come to retract in some areas which action is directly related to both of us now being octogenarians. And conscious that, one day, one of us may fail the two-yearly eyesight-memory test that is required for living this long. So, both cars are being traded in for a new model and we will continue with our current activity of operating under hybrid conditions. Not the plug-in electric power kind but pure hybrid. It has taken a while to gain the benefits of such a form of propulsion where controlled pressure on the ‘gas’ pedal – in itself mostly a misnomer – assists one to ease the car into battery propulsion.

It was an interesting exercise choosing which vehicle to purchase and involved deep research into nine different models of SUV-type hybrids. All had many similar features – size being a case in point. All had a similar price range but, in the end, we managed to drilldown to a short list of two models which offered – at least visually and in general performance – very similar driving conditions and electronic support. The purchase price of the two were within $50 of each other and the eventual decision was very much driven by the bottom-line trade-in prices for the two discarded cars.

And this takes me on to vehicle electronics. Sizable information screens deliver a whole new gambit of performance information and options as to the visual read-out that is required. Several of them now do not have physical stick-type handbrakes but rely on electronic buttons. A smaller number of the models viewed now have done away with the gear stick – in fact the model we have chosen only has push-button applications as to the driving condition required.

So, given that the car industry has moved up several notches in driving, parking and distance-to-car-ahead technology where do we go next? Is the driverless car a possibility in the near future? To what extent can we honestly admit that we could sit there and effectively read a book while the vehicle transports us to the end of our desired journey? How do the electronics deal with the idiot driver factor that is very apparent on our roads today? How will the smart car recognise pedestrians just about to lurch out from the kerb?

And that is before we approach a sensible use of orange road cones that place unplanned curves and start/stop restrictions into one’s journey and cannot be displayed on the fancy screen’s mapping system.

We have a long way to go yet. But without doubt the recent advances are a quantum leap from the previous 30 years. Many of the older drivers will well remember when their cars were not fitted with simple radios and the turning indicator was a physical arm that swung up from its pillar housing. Running board anyone??

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