Opel AmperaEnlarge Photo
Electric cars and hybrid vehicles may still lag a little behind traditional gasoline cars when it comes to sales figures, but their impact is wider-reaching than you might think.
Even if you're yet to go electric or drive a hybrid, there's a fair chance that the vehicle you're driving owes some of its technology to its more efficient cousins.
That's what Stuart Harris, head of product marketing at GM's U.K. arm Vauxhall, told T3.com. Vauxhall will soon be selling the Ampera, rebadged from the Opel variant of the Chevrolet Volt. Harris believes that electric cars are something of a pioneer for new technology that's finding its way into many non-electric vehicles.
"Electric cars are actually more evolved than petrol cars in terms of in-car technology... Purchasers of electric cars are techy, they like all the little gadgets and features" explains Harris.
He says that manufacturers have to develop new technology to work with electric vehicles as existing tech doesn't port straight over - not least because there's no engine to drive air conditioners or power steering pumps.
In developing efficient electric technologies, carmakers have found they then improve efficiency in regular cars too. And it's not just efficiency, but connected technologies too, with apps to keep track of your car's status and smartphone integration.
BMW developed an "Eco Pro" system for the Active-E electric car to help drivers make the most of their driving style to improve efficiency and to set up the car for more economical driving, but the same feature has since been adopted in some of its regular gasoline and diesel vehicles, too.
We'd go further and suggest that hybrids have also contributed several new technologies to regular vehicles.
Regenerative braking has always been a feature of hybrids and some carmakers are now using it on regular vehicles to reduce load on the alternator to power accessories, improving efficiency. The upcoming Mazda Takeri concept will be using this technology to good effect.
Electric power steering appeared before hybrids, but fuel-efficient vehicles were the first to illustrate its benefits on MPG. Stop-start is another technology that was little-used before hybrid vehicles appeared, and now featured on a wide range of cars.
So whether you're looking for the latest app to enable you to connect with your car or you're making use of regenerative breaking to eke out that extra few miles on each gallon, electric cars and hybrids probably got there first...