When Andy Green takes his car for a test drive in November, he will need an open road - as the driver of the Bloodhound SSC, he will be testing his vehicle's capabilities to power along at over 1,600km/h. This ultimate supercar features a hybrid engine - the first time a jet and rocket have been combined - and if it achieves the desired speed, it will set a new world record for land speed.
The present holder of the Outright World Land Speed Record is ThrustSSC, a twin turbofan jet-powered car which achieved 763.035mph - or 1,227.985 km/h - over one mile in October 1997, according to the FIA, the world governing body for motor sports. It was the first supersonic record, as it broke the sound barrier at Mach 1.016.
"The fact is that hybrid engines are the way forward," says Mark Chapman, the engineer of the project. "They make an engine easier to handle, they're less toxic, more economically viable and are developing at an incredible rate." In fact, he adds, the hybrid engine is "a test case for spaceflight, for the satellite launch vehicles of tomorrow".
Most people's conception of a hybrid motor - a non-specific term, but one which typically combines two or more power sources and captures wasted energy for greater efficiency, economy and fewer pollutants - is something altogether more sedate, heavy and, well, dull. It would bring to mind the quiet hum of the engine inside the Toyota Prius, Nissan Leaf or, increasingly, public buses.
Now, however, various hybrid technologies are not only being introduced to most forms of surface transport such as trains and ships, but also luxury yachts and vehicles designed to move at speed - think lean, mean machines from the likes of McLaren or Lamborghini.
In the last few years, the world has seen the launch of the Porsche 918 Spyder, the Ferrari LaFerrari, the McLaren P1. And with good reason: in addition to the ecological and cost-saving benefits, McLaren's electric motor, for example, boosts propulsion, fills gaps in torque and keeps the turbo spooled up. Meanwhile, Ferrari's two electric motors might add an extra 60kg to the car, but they also give it an extra 163 horsepower, and Porsche's car can cruise at 100mph just in electric mode.
As Stephan Winkelmann, CEO of Lamborghini, says of the marque's new plug-in Asterion LPI9100-4: "Every new car needs to be a real Lamborghini, but on the other hand, we need to respect the emission values permitted by laws. Of course, we grew up with naturally aspirated engines. [But we always need to] verify if our engine concept still fits future requirements. We do not exclude anything, neither turbo engines nor hybrid concepts."
Cars aren't the only vehicles in which hybrid engines are being found. This year saw the launch of Savannah, the world's first hybrid superyacht created by the Dutch shipbuilder Feadship. Within the sleek, streamlined hull is a pioneering blend of a single diesel engine, three gensets, batteries and an azimuth thruster.
Savannah's engine is a realisation of the Breathe concept that Feadship first proposed five years ago. But it is, as in cars, the way ahead - with yachts being notoriously expensive to run, Savannah's hybrid engine offers economies of 30 per cent.
"Savings like those obviously appeal to any client," says Ronno Schouten, Feadship's head of design, "but the attention to energy efficiency is now going throughout yacht design, from the air con system to the use of LED lighting."
Crucially, though, it is also the kind of package that younger customers of cars and yachts are now demanding.
"The yacht industry has always been led by the customer, and this is a customer who perhaps pushes new technology in their own companies. They're the type of customers to buy a Tesla car," says Gary Wright, co-founder of Monaco-based yachtbuilders Y.CO. "Yacht building has been in a bubble for 30 years with regard to its use of technology, and it's now breaking out of that. Customers are demanding that yachts be quieter, more progressive, more environmentally-friendly. For example, within five years we can expect yachts to operate 24 hours under battery power."
Not that green power is easy to pull off in boats. Common wisdom is that, in a car, when a hybrid coasts or brakes, the momentum charges the battery, providing essentially free power. With a boat, however, a loss of speed means a drop in efficiency. And, of course, there's no braking to capture wasted energy from, and doing that is what hybrids are ultimately all about. It's highly complex to make such systems. Boatbuilder Nord has, over the last decade, built two diesel-electric models that it has subsequently called "complete failures".
With cars, the question might be whether demand naturally follows advances in the technology, or whether it will be somewhat more forced. Rolls-Royce launched its electric Phantom in 2008, toured the world with it to get consumer reaction, and then quietly shelved it.
"Obviously, attitudes to engines are changing, but the big issue for our customers was the range - electric engines are limited, and our customers didn't expect limits to be put on them," explains Andrew Ball, spokesman for Rolls-Royce. "At the moment, customers just aren't banging on the door for [such engine technologies]. I think we can expect change to be driven more by legislation than the consumer - the [game-changer] will be when cities or states make lower emissions a requirement."
That is already happening in other transport sectors. Although more research is needed before jets - commercial or private - will be powered by hybrid or even fully electric motors, this year saw the University of Cambridge work with Boeing to test the first aircraft to be able to recharge its batteries while in flight.
"Such hybrid engines are a strong possibility for aviation," says Arvind Gangoli Rao, associate professor of propulsion and power at Delft University of Technology. "From the Comet to the 474 to the latest Airbus, aerodynamics have improved, but changes to engine technology have not been so dramatic. The question is just how we're going to fly in 30 or so years, when greener engines will be necessary to tackle the energy situation. Hybrid systems are going to be necessary for all powered transport. Given the fact of global warming, we have no choice."