The electric engine has been around since the dawn of the internal combustion engine, the two have co-existed together for over 100 years. Whereas the internal combustion engine has increased the pace of life and shortened distances the electric motor has taken a different but no less significant route. Electric motors drive the fans that cool your PC, spins your tumble dryer and powers your electric drill. So why do we look upon electric powered vehicles as a new dawn when that dawn has been seen so many times before.
Our reliance on the combustion engine may be one reason, economics another. As the combustion engine became less expensive to make the more expensive to produce electric vehicle dream faded into the footnote of history, survived only by the milk float, golf cart and the infamous Sinclair C5. One hundred years on and the EV concept is re-emerging. Car manufactures are beginning to roll out convergence technologies in a bid to meet increasingly tough emissions laws, we know them as hybrids.
Peugeot created the ever first diesel/electric hybrid with the 3008 HYbrid4 a 99 g/km emissions friendly showcase and now the same technology has been shoe horned into the RXH, a 107 g/km fully loaded, flagship hybrid 4×4 estate. Available only in SW guise, and in a bid to mark it out from the rest of the 508 clan, the RXH gets a redesigned front radiator grill and unique LED daylights that resemble a Lion’s claw, say Peugeot . The ride height has been increased by 50mm and flared wheel arches increase the width by 40mm to give it that go anywhere appeal.
The 508’s excellent interior is fully loaded with kit and receives a minor makeover which is limited to surface detailing such as brushed aluminium and colorful lacquered inserts with matching stitching for the leather faced interior. The central control panel houses a redesigned gear lever and a rotating dial which features four self explanatory selectable driving modes, Auto, Sport, ZEV (Zero Emissions Vehicle) and 4WD.
” …if you are looking for the holy grail of fuel sipping cars then don’t expect it from a hybrid, any hybrid, the RXH’s combined fuel economy was no better than a conventional diesel”.
Auto mode simultaneously controls both diesel and electric power, its simply a case of drive and go, though its the most economical setting acceleration and response feels sluggish. Sport mode increases engine driveability and decisively boosts performance, acceleration was noticeably faster and throttle response sharper. With fully charged batteries and under full electric power, the ZEV mode lasted for about 1.5 miles before the batteries were depleted, the system seamlessly returns to auto mode which means back to diesel power only and its all done without any interruption to the driving experience. The electric motor is housed in the center of the rear suspension assembly for better weight distribution and the Nickel batteries are located just underneath the boot sill cover.
The start sequence is eerily silent for a diesel due to the low speed electric drive which can sustain its drive up to 40mph but electric power alone isn’t enough to shift the RXH’s mass indefinitely. When you hit a gradient or floor the throttle the diesel engine automatically takes over, which ever mode you are in, both powerplants can operate together to give optimum acceleration. It takes another 5-8 minutes before the batteries are fully recharged through regenerative energy recovery. The engine-braking has been optimised to recover every scrap of energy to the point where it feels like you are applying the brakes when you lift off the throttle. The 4WD drive mode gives secure all terrain composure and traction and feels similar in terms of response to the Sport mode setting.
Peugeot’s 2.0 litre HDi engine produces 163bhp power up front, the electric motor produces a further 37bhp to give a combined output of 200bhp, 450Nm of torque, the RXH also comes fitted with stop/start technology. Peugeot’s electronic gearbox benefits with the inclusion of the electric motor which zaps a bit of power into the ECG smoothing out the swaying almost camel-ride like shift pattern, specifically at low speeds and low to mid range torque levels. The 508’s firm but floaty ride has taken a slight hit, the extra technology adds weight and it seems to compensate for this hybrid tech binge the suspension has been stiffened. The net result affects the ride quality at low speeds and over bumps, it feels just a little bit harsh and not as grippy. To extra weight does naturally affect the handling, of course that’s to be expected, let just say its effective rather than an intertwined union of joy.
That said the best technology is always the best hidden in so much as you never notice it and the RXH delivers its hidden technology impressively, its of equal measure to Honda or Toyota’s hybrid breed if not slightly better because it feels more like a normal car to drive. But if you are looking for the holy grail of fuel sipping cars then don’t expect it from a hybrid, any hybrid, the RXH’s combined fuel economy was no better than a conventional diesel. Packaged in a slick form factor with a sleek interior the hybrid RXH performs exactly the same differently, however its low C02 output means a low tax foot print and this may find some appeal over its ability to save the earth.