We all know that the cost of running a hybrid car is cheaper than a traditional internal combustion engined vehicle. That much is obvious — otherwise, why bother? — but there are some added extra features, that we didn't know about, that give you a pretty good reason to consider one as your next car, especially if you're a regular commuter. Here are four hidden advantages of owning a hybrid.
Air conditioning when the engine is off. This is a huge one if, like me, you love chilling in your car for an hour or two on a lazy summer weekend afternoon. Cars get hot, but some newer hybrids — including the Toyota Corolla Hybrid that I've been in for a couple of months now — have electrically-driven air compressors, and can cool the ambient air down to a comfortably icy temperature, without the need to keep the engine ticking over and idling. Sure, the engine will run every now and then to top the battery up, but it's so much more relaxing than being in a petrol-powered car.
Regenerative braking for lazy city driving. Like lots of modern auto cars, the Corolla Hybrid has a little faux-automatic gear shifter that lets you electronically select reverse, neutral or drive. What the Hybrid's shifter adds is a 'B' mode, which adds in some extra regenerative braking along the way and that starts to slow you down as soon as you take your foot off the accelerator. It's not quite as aggressive as Tesla's regenerative braking, which will bring you almost to a standstill, but it keeps your electric battery topped up and it makes city driving a little smoother too.
Quiet commuting for those hungover mornings. In Eco mode, especially with the advantage of the electric air conditioning, sitting inside a hybrid on the way into the office is a really serene place to be. This is one of the amazing bonuses that stop/start fuel-efficient engines have brought to the world: as well as no unnecessary CO2 emissions, hybrids and other stop/start-engined cars are perfectly still when stationary, with no vibrations or ambient rumbles. If, like me, you don't want to put up with anything in the morning, it's a pleasant and unexpected addition.
A surprising amount of get up and go. The Corolla Hybrid is not a fast car (although it's still fun to drive slow car fast). It'll crack 100km/h in maybe 11 seconds or so, with the petrol motor and CVT gearbox kicking in along the way to take over when the electric motor runs out of puff at around 40km/h. But from 0-40km/h — for that crucial traffic light grand prix, where you need to get ahead of the other guy so you can change lanes, that electric motor actually has a surprising amount of kick to it.