Hybrids Are Slow? 185 MPH Bonneville Jetta Says Otherwise

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2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid land speed record car

2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid land speed record car

Enlarge Photo

For a week each year, speed freaks from across the globe descend on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, for a chance at walking away with a land speed record.

All sorts of vehicles show up, but predictably, being green isn't always on the minds of the competitors.

Still, there are other ways of proving that green technology works, even if it's not always about sipping gas. Volkswagen has shown just that, by walking away with a record 185.394 mph with its 45 mpg Jetta Hybrid.

With Motor Trend journalist Carlos Lago at the wheel, the modified production Jetta Hybrid beat the previous hybrid record, from a Toyota Prius, by over 50 mph.

The powertrain was modified by Volkswagen R&D straight from Germany, and engineers from VW's California test facility were there to supervise the engine and hybrid drive calibration. The car was built by salt racing experts at A-Salt Racing and Advanced Product Engineering, from California.

2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid land speed record car

2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid land speed record car

Enlarge Photo
The Southern California Timing Association, the body that hosts Bonneville Speed Week, has no dedicated hybrid category just yet, so the 185 mph record isn't official--but the team will be having another go at a later date, when it becomes eligible for an official record.

Lago commented that the aspect he was most impressed with was the Jetta Hybrid's near-silent starts on electric power--before the engine kicked in to crank up the speed.

So next time someone tells you hybrids are slow, just laugh it off.

Not only can you buy 150 mph-plus hybrid sport sedans, but even a hybrid Jetta can do over 180 mph...


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Comments (25)
  1. "So next time someone tells you hybrids are slow, just laugh it off."

    Top speed is only one factor of the performance. Most of those land speed record holders couldn't beat a Camaro in 0-60mph, 1/4 miles or 0-100mph. They usually have much different gearing and top speed.

    Top speed is "pointless" in rear life as long as you can reach 100mph.

    As far as the race is concerned, none of them represent the real production car. Another pointless comparison.

    Didn't the modified EV-1 set an EV record few years ago with highest EV speed? But still pointless...

    Land speed record of 150mph+ are silly. Why stay on the ground when you can fly at that speed? Straping a Jet Engine to break land speed record just to stay on ground is stupid.

  2. Actually, you're right. Why bother seeing what we're capable of as a species when we can stay at home and put our feet up instead?

  3. "what we're capable of"? You mean waste energy and resource on something that doesn't matter? Why stay on the ground when you can fly at that speed. what is point of trying to go fast on a hybrid when the ICE and EVs are already going fast. Did you even list what mode was the car in when it reached top speed? If it wasn't in dual mode, then what was point? even if it was, so what? HOw is that any accomplishment in terms of physics?

    Hybrids are usually slow b/c its acceleration. People don't use "fast" as in top speed as top speed usually has NO real life driving significance. Why do you think they race on the Salt Flat in Utah? B/c most places don't have straight tracks for that distance to reach top speed.

  4. People do it because it's a challenge. "We do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard".

  5. How is it that a challenge if we don't even know if the car is operating at 185mph in hybrid mode? Also, did that 185mph in hybrid produce any significant improvement in MPG over a non-hybrid at 185mph? If NOT, then what is the advantage of the hybrid at 185mph?

    Plus, it is a modified race car. Doesn't have any real world significance.

    I am going to humor you for a second. What is the 0-185mph time? 20 minutes?

  6. It's called human endeavor. It doesn't *need* significance, other than the challenge of making something that normally does the grocery run do 185mph.

    If we only ever did stuff we "needed" to, the world would be a very boring place.

    And no, it doesn't take 20 minutes to get there. The Bonneville run is around 10 miles long. 20 minutes over ten miles would be an average speed of 30 mph. Assuming the car is doing 100mph well before the mile mark, I'd be surprised if the run takes more than 6-7 minutes.

  7. "challenge of making something that normally does the grocery run do 185mph."

    Really? A modified racing car is what people "normally" use to go to grocery run? You are probably thinking all Americans drive their NASCARs to the grocery stores too...

    It is meaningless b/c it is NOT production car and it has NO technology improvment whatsever in difference between a hybrid and a nonhybrid at that speed.

    Hybrid is there to improve efficiency. During a racing situation to the top speed, it provides NOTHING except for electric assist. But it also add weight. So, what is the power splitt between the two during the run? No information.

    Maybe it was just a run in "name" only... Hybrid term has been used to "green wash" everything...

  8. Yep, people don't use top speed. Neither do they use their four wheel drive, or excessive acceleration available on tap, but that doesn't not seem to bother you.

  9. Well, top speed of anything over triple digits are NOT significant at all to most people who buy production cars. B/c unless you go to race tracks, you don't have enough roads anywhere to get to that top speed (breaking the law is another matter). 4WD/AWD are used all the time with people going to the mountains during the winter. That is a realistic driving mode. In CA during the winter, I-80/US-50 require 4WD/AWD with snow tires just about every snow storm during the winter. I-80 is a major east/west hwy.

    Excessive accerleration? They are used everyday during a short merge ramp. Try come to the Golden Gate Bridge, the first exit North of the GGB is a short uphill ramp with a 180 deg turn. You will never every bit of that power.

  10. You seem to be forgetting two important facts.
    1) The vast majority of cars are not awd, and yet some how people survived.
    2) For decades, cars had 10 second plus 0-60 acceleration and some how people survived.

    All just part of trying to get people to buy things they do not need and having terrible consequences for mpg, the environment, and foreign trade.

    But agreed, anything over 100 mph is completely academic. Just like any acceleration faster than 10 seconds is academic.

  11. Xiaolong, All this time you have been gassing on about acceleration, I just assumed you were driving a car with fast acceleration. That is not that case, is it.

    Volt 8.9 sec 0-60
    Prius 9.7 sec 0-60

    Just 0.8 seconds difference.

    You are actually driving a car almost as slow as a Prius. LOL. People, People, People.

  12. There are more comments in this thread
  13. Come on Xiaolong!! It is all about self esteem!! He thought a 50 mpg wee-nee mobile would be a chick magnet.

  14. The more article I read from you, the more I am disappointed in your writing. So many of them are NOT based on anything "scientific". It seems to me that they are more a "blog" instead of a news article...

    Maybe I will just ignore them from now on.

  15. @Xiaolong: We will miss you.

  16. @John Voelcker,

    I won't leave the site, just some Antony's writing. You actually report a lot of facts and interesting news. I prefer news and facts instead of just a blog or someone's opinion. I can usually read someone's opinion by reading the comment section.

  17. It's a shame you feel that way, but I think you're missing the point of "news".

    Whether you like the content or not is largely irrelevant. I don't like hearing about wars or the Olympics when I turn on my TV, but it's still news.

    The clue here is not to ignore content from a certain writer, but to take a look at the title of an article before you click on it, and ask yourself whether it's content you want to read. If the answer is "no", then you're welcome to not click on it, and it would save me from having to read ignorant comments, so we'd both be happy.

  18. Funny, Xiaolong is complaining about having to read your article and you are complaining about having to read his comments. Of course neither of you is forced to read.

    Most days I get more out of the articles, but occasionally I get more out of peoples comments.

    But I am with Antony on this one. It is a news story. It is not Antony's fault that it might be uninteresting to the reader. I follow Antony's advice for any article related to sports.

    But to Xaiolong's point, I wonder how much "hybrid" function is going on at top speed.

  19. Well, sure. You got me all interested with the title. But guess what? The article fell short. No information on the MPG during that 185mph run. No information on the E/Gas power splitt at that 185mph. No information on how long it took to get there. No information on how much the hybrid motor size was, battery size, transmission type...etc.

    If you want to call it a "news" instead of "blog", please add more factual information instead of "personal opinions". I can read them in the comment section.

    Don't get me started on the general public "news". These days, many news are really just "opinions or blogs" by the writers. The "average" major news network coverage have gone down in standards (FOX news is a great example of that).

  20. You right, I left out loads of information. Apart from the car. And the top speed it reached. And who built it. And who drove it. And the car it beat. And the conditions surrounding the record. And the driver's opinions on the car.

    But apart from that, nothing. Still, feel free to read the article I sourced my information from and let me know if I missed any of the details you mention out. I could have just plucked them out the air, but I prefer to report actual news rather than fiction.

    John - thanks for the support. I do generally enjoy reading comments, and I see it as a positive thing to converse with my readers. It's just that, unfortunately, occasionally some people don't understand the nature of news.

  21. There are more comments in this thread
  22. “Slow” means slow acceleration. Virtually every car, including hybrid, is too fast in terms of top speed which is way over legal in most part of the world.

  23. To buy a 150+ mph hybrid street car, you have to buy a Porsche Panamera (167 mph). The Panamera is STILL slower than your "modified production" Jetta. Calling a 185 mph Jetta "modified production" is the same as calling NASCAR "stock car racing". Doesn't sound very much of an esteem booster to me.

  24. Last year Skoda managed 227mph from an Octavia vRS (essentially a VW GTI in a different body). Save from some stickers and some mooneyes, the only significant modifications it had were a larger turbocharger and altered engine mapping, and the gearbox from the diesel-powered Octavia.

    I see nothing about the Jetta above that leads me to believe you couldn't build something virtually identical in your garage without much investment. It would almost certainly be significantly cheaper than buying that Porsche.

    It's very much *not* a dedicated race car like a NASCAR.

  25. The first modification was a driver with some serious nads. The stock car comes with 167 hp stock. The "garage modified" Octavia was built by Revo...a custom shop like AMG and Ruf. It came with the "factory" parachute. The bodywork doesn't exactly look standard on that car. 120 octane racing fuel with methanol was used. A "slightly customized" radiator was used to deal with the temperatures involved in going over 200 mph. The only thing "off the shelf" was the monster Garrett turbo involved to boost it up to 600 hp. The suspension is K&W aftermarket. A roll cage was built to comply with safety regs. Oh...and one small detail you left out...IT WAS NOT A HYBRID! It was built with a modified gasoline engine.

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