Snowmobile (Image by Flickr user katerha used under Creative Commons license)
There are many reasons for making a vehicle a hybrid--driveability, improving gas mileage--but "covert operations" is the best we've heard so far.
You could sneak up on people in a Prius--as you'll probably have discovered in parking lots as pedestrians dive out in front of your near-silent vehicle. But the Canadian military wanted something a bit better on snow and ice, so they've chosen 'Loki'.
Named after the mythological Norse shape-shifting god, Loki is a hybrid-electric snowmobile, designed for Arctic operations.
According to The Globe And Mail, it wears a price tag of $620,000 and has understandably been criticized by some as a bit of a waste of money. Arctic terrorists have so far been notable by their absence, and one Arctic policy expert told the Mail he couldn't help but wonder "whether [defense officials have] been watching too many James Bond movies."
There's certainly an element of spy thriller to the Loki snowmobile, and its final specifications--as a part of military hardware--are equally secretive.
It wouldn't be known of at all had the Canadian Press not obtained a report providing insight into informal Arctic testing of the vehicle, including comparison with existing commercially-available snowmobiles.
The military has put particular focus on sound and speed--testing the Loki prototype's noise against more conventional equivalents, and testing acceleration with a radar gun. The latter is particularly important--along with factors like battery life--as the vehicle needs to work at least as well as regular offerings, as well as being quiet.
The report explains just why silence is such an important factor: "The noise level of an internal combustion engine cannot be reduced to an acceptable level for missions where covertness may be required, especially given the increased propagation of sound in cold, dry, Arctic air".
So there you go. Hybrids could make the Arctic safer--as well as melting it just that little bit less...
[Hat tip: John Knox]