Hybrid cars are designed for maximum efficiency, and as such, they are not exactly built for mountain-driving purposes. Be that as it may, there is no reason that some more off-road friendly hybrid SUVs are anything less than equal to their gasoline or diesel counterparts.
The main advantage of hybrid cars, and certainly the main reason why they offer increased efficiency is regenerative braking. Regenerative braking is a mechanism designed to recover lost energy while slowing the car down.
And the whole hybrid-mountain driving scenario can be viewed primarily through this perspective. While you are going up a hill, the instant electric torque does offer you a slight boost. Whenever you are going down, regenerative breaking is going to take the stress from your regular friction brakes.
As such, hybrids are good for mountain driving. However, hybrids do weigh 200-500 pounds more than their regular gas or diesel counterparts, and there are loads of ramifications that sprout from such a large weight discrepancy.
Hybrids and mountain driving environments
When you take a look at which variables define the average mountain driving environment, you are usually looking at snow, ice, rain, cold, and subpar road surface. As such, a car has to be able to sustain its own weight power-wise and handling-wise.
Some hybrid cars like the Toyota Prius are less than ideal for such driving circumstances, but it’s the same with any other gasoline or diesel-powered car from a similar segment. Others like the Volvo XC90 Hybrid or the Range Rover P400e are great mountain driving cars.
That being said, the regular Volvo XC90 and the regular Range Rover are both equally as good, if not even better than their hybrid counterparts. Although hybrids should do just fine, most hybrid engines are not designed for mountain driving.
Hybrid engines are beneficial when they work in their optimal power band which results in increased efficiency. Steep hills and constant gradients require the engine to work harder all the time, which in turn renders a hybrid engine useless from an efficiency point of view, even if regen braking does recoup lost energy.
Hybrids and highway cruising
As mentioned previously, hybrids can drive in mountainous areas, but that’s certainly not the point of a hybrid vehicle. On the other hand, highway driving is an entirely different set of factors, and a hybrid is not exactly made for highway driving either.
To illustrate, imagine yourself driving at a constant speed of 70mph. You’d think that the combustion and electric engine are working in perfect harmony, but they are not, quite the contrary, almost the entire pulling power is being exerted by the combustion engine.
This is because electric engines are not designed for constant high-speed driving, they are designed for urban environments where you constantly have to brake and use regenerative braking. Even though you are likely going to experience lower emissions, a hybrid is not the best highway cruiser.
Hybrids and city driving
As we have already discussed, hybrids are not made for highway driving nor mountain driving, so the question arises, what’s the point of a hybrid then? And the answer to this question is superior efficiency in urban driving stop-and-go traffic. So much so that it’s not even comparable.
The primary reason why hybrid cars tend to steadily lead the pack in terms of urban driving is mostly due to regenerative braking. Stop and go traffic is a definitive characteristic of a classic city driving environment, and regen braking is made to work in tandem with stop and go traffic.
Regen braking works in such a way that it recuperates lost engine power while slowing down. This means that your friction brakes are not in use while slowing down, only when you need to slow down more aggressively, your friction brakes will pitch in. The more you slow down, the more energy you recoup.
Besides regen braking, city driving is mostly at a lower speed, which means that the electric engine is almost always able to propel the car by itself which further increases efficiency. As hybrid cars become more and more sophisticated, they are going to become the undeniable best cars on the market as far as engine types are concerned.
Are electric cars good for mountain driving?
Electric cars are great for mountain driving if they are developed for such a purpose. Power and efficiency-wise, a Tesla Model S is as good as any other EV in a mountainous area. However, if bad road quality and off-roading is your definition of mountain driving, then you should stick to good old Wranglers and Land Cruisers.
That being said, gas and diesel cars tend to lose a lot of power at higher altitudes, EVs do not. Manual combustion engine cars are not great for going uphill nor downhill, on the other hand, an EV with regen braking is great at going up or downhill.
Are hybrid and electric cars great for off-road?
Hybrids can be good off-road, but the differences between regular gas or diesel SUVs and hybrids are marginal, not worth mentioning. On the other hand, there is absolutely no reason to think that EVs are not going to completely take over off-road driving because they are better in almost every regard.
Primarily, EVs don’t guzzle gas, and regular off-roaders do. Secondly, you can send power to each and every wheel individually much easier than in a regular gas or diesel car. Thirdly, you have 100% of torque at 100% of the time, and this is the main reason why EVs will eventually take over off-roading.
Are hybrid and electric cars good for racing?
If we talk about sports and activities that include cars, hardly any of them are more car-enthusiast friendly than racing. This means that the most die-hard petrolheads reside in such circles, and these might as well be the most stubborn demographic when it comes to electric cars.
We get it, we also love naturally aspirated V8, V10, and V12 engines, but there is no reason not to race with electric cars because electric cars work completely differently, and it is interesting to see where some organizations like Formula E will go in the coming years.