The hybrid cars that may get a boost from Hong Kong’s Formula E races

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 September, 2016, 10:41pm
UPDATED : Friday, 23 September, 2016, 10:41pm

The Hong Kong Formula E races on October 8 and 9 could encourage more motorists to drive hybrid cars. There are plenty to choose from in the city’s car showrooms, and they largely run on a combination of petrol and electric engines.

However, hybrids are usually more expensive than petrol-only versions, so first-time buyers might be looking to buy a small car in which to learn new eco-driving skills, such as coasting, regenerative braking and when to recharge on petrol power. Hybrids are fun to drive, once you get used to these techniques and driving quietly on battery power. (They nag a bit on eco-driving.)

BMW is supplying two hybrids to organisers of the Formula E. The almost five-metre BMW i8 (HK$2.72 million) is the Central event’s safety car, and the first plug-in hybrid sports car to combine a 1.5-litre TwinPower Turbo three-cylinder petrol engine at the back with a 131-horsepower electric motor in the front. The engines combine to produce 362hp and four-wheel drive, with the lithium battery stowed low mid-chassis.

BMW has also given the i8 a light carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic passenger cell, and the home-chargeable, eight-year-warranty battery offers torque of 250 Newton metres, a range of up to 37km and a top speed of 120km/h. Using both engines, the i8 can reach 100km/h in 4.4 seconds, yet consume 2.1 litres of petrol per 100km and 11.9 kWh of electricity, BMW says, with CO2 emissions of 49 g/km.

Look out too for the 245hp BMW X5 xDrive40e (HK$899,900), the Hong Kong Formula E rescue car and the marque’s first hybrid sports activity vehicle, with a two-litre BMW TwinPower Turboengine, an electric motor and an eight-speed Steptronic transmission. It hits 100km/h in 6.8 seconds and tops at 210km/h. BMW Concessionaires (HK) also stocks the 225xe Active Tourer (HK$529,900) and the 184hp BMW 330e (HK$599,900), which reaches 100km/h 6.1 seconds, tops at 225km/h and consumes 2.1 l/100km of petrol.

Toyota and Lexus dealer Crown Motors has many models, although parallel dealers such as Richburg Motors have arguably sold them for longer. You might haggle, too, as Crown Motors last week offered deals on the 98-horsepower Sienta Hybrid Limited Edition (HK$224,000) and the 2.5-litre Alphard Hybrid (HK$749,000).

The 1.8-litre Toyota Prius (HK$289,100) is a hybrid legend. More stylish than its geekier hybrid predecessors, it is a popular choice, with petrol and electric power of 120hp, comfy seats and an attractive dashboard. However, the smaller, 99hp Toyota Prius C (HK$234,150) looks a bright, manoeuvrable commuter, and could be all a household needs, with a 1.5-litre petrol engine, the 189Nm torque of its electric motor, and continuous variable transmission.

The 204hp Audi A3 Sportback e-tron (from HK$399,900) looks like a “normal” five-seater and should sell well in the more status-conscious parts of Jardine’s Lookout. Audi has the best hybrid credentials, having won three consecutive Le Mans races with a hybrid-diesel R18 e-tron quattro – from in 2012 to 2014. Such endurance expertise might reassure many families about the reliability of hybrid technology, and also remind Hongkongers of the power of the latest downsized petrol engines.

The Audi A3 Sportback e-tron is an engineering marvel with an impressive 140-horsepower, 1.4-litre TFSI, fuel-injected petrol engine and an electric motor. The hybrid shoots to 100km/h in 7.6 seconds and tops at 222km/h via a specially designed six-speed S-tronic gearbox. The lithium battery promises an electric-only range of 50km – depending on how you drive – while average petrol consumption is about 1.5 litres per 100km of petrol from a 40-litre tank, and for about 35g/km in carbon-dioxide emissions, the marque says. The A3 Sportback e-tron also has a five-star European crash-test rating, a 280-litre-to-1,120l boot, an optional “virtual cockpit” and lots of safety electronics.

Meanwhile, Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong presents its S 400 Hybrid (HK$1.72 milllion) online, with a 333hp, 3.5-litre V6 thumping out 370Nm of torque. Porsche Hong Kong is offering the 306hp Cayenne S E Hybrid (HK$1.42 million) and 330hp Panamera 4 E-Hybrid (HK$2.72 million).

Ferrari, on the other hand, arguably offers the rarest hybrids. Its 963hp LaFerrari is powered by a 6,262cc, 800hp V12 petrol engine and a 163hp electric counterpart. Fitted with HY-KERS technology that integrates the two motors, it’s “the most high performance and efficient Ferrari ever built”, the Italian marque says, citing “a maximum torque peak of over 900Nm” via a Formula One dual-clutch gearbox. The LaFerrari speeds to 100km/h in just three seconds and tops at over 350 km/h.

The limited-edition LaFerrari Aperta will be unveiled at the October 1 to 16 Paris Motor Show with a removable carbon-fibre hard and soft top, and the same performance as the original LaFerrari. The marque says both models are sold out, but look out for an Aperta on the south side of Hong Kong Island. All Ferraris must be seen in Repulse Bay, the “Supercar Capital of Asia” and home of a Ferrari showroom.