Everything’s Different, Everything’s The Same
No More Waiting

A couple of years back, I looked at just some of the reasons why we drive.

That is, why and how we draw excitement from our cars. While I still think that a lot of our intentions are well intended, we still fall into the same old traps of losing sight of things. It’s all too easy to have our heads turned and to be told that we should like this or that, without really considering our own needs.

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For years and years, I’ve been told that hybrids are the death knell for the modern performance car and as such should be seen as the enemy. In fact, anything that was seen as being somewhat environmentally responsible was an affront to what we should stand for. Being a car enthusiast meant that we should burn as much fuel and rubber in the loudest and most obnoxious manner possible with zero consideration for the rest of the world. We made ourselves the outcasts of society and to a certain extent, we still are.

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I’ve not gone soft, I do still enjoy burning fossil fuels in this manner, but there is a part of me that often wonders if there’s a viable alternative. Maybe it comes with growing older, but I do find myself becoming more conscious of how society views us. I’m also more aware of our environment and how we should maybe begin to assume some of the responsibility for protecting it.

This might not sound very ‘Speedhunters’, but I am going somewhere with this, so stick with me…

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I recently wrote about how the hybrid technology in the Porsche 918 and how the current crop of hypercars are leading the way on the performance hybrid front. The ability to have power and economy is something that we should embrace. Too bad it’ll be years before the technology trickles down to more affordable cars though.

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But what if the technology is already available today for us mere mortals? And what if it is available in something as humble as, I don’t know, a Golf, perhaps?

Grand Touring Electric
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The most striking thing about the new Golf GTE is how non-striking it is. Where other hybrids like to shout about their green credentials, the GTE is far more humble in its approach. Just as you would expect it to be, I suppose. The blue detailing across the grill and through the headlights, along with the blue brake calipers – in contrast to the GTI’s red detailing – is about as loud as it gets from a styling point of view.

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Inside is much the same; there’s nothing that really shouts at you which is what most Golf purchasers prefer. It’s a very dignified car, but it does have subtle hints to its heritage.

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The tartan seats for example, are a throwback to the original GTI. Again, blue replaces the red of its GTI sibling (the GTD equivalent is of a more monochromatic nature). Although it’s an electric hybrid, it’s very much based upon the same philosophy of the GTI. That is, a performance car that is as comfortable on the commute as it is assaulting an enjoyable stretch of road.

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Possibly the most obvious visual cue is this – a battery power gauge with the engine’s rev counter having been relegated to a much smaller piece of binnacle cluster real estate. Everything else is very much contemporary Volkswagen.

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Rather than just cycle through the vehicles specification, I thought it would be more interesting to talk about how it translates into real-world performance. Setting out from my home in the south east of Ireland, I headed for the coast where I would follow it for a couple of hours.

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The roads are tight, twisty and the surface is often less than ideal. I know the roads though, so I can offer feedback versus the countless other cars I’ve driven across them. The views aren’t bad on a good day either.

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Where as the other GT-grade cars are of 2.0-litre capacity (regardless of petrol or diesel, both are also turbocharged) the GTE is fitted with a smaller 1.4-litre turbocharged motor. In isolation, this unit produces around 150hp, but it’s not alone under the bonnet.

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Sharing the engine bay is a 75hp electric motor which can operate in complete isolation of the petrol engine or in tandem with it. When the two work together, power levels increase to a maximum of around 205hp and 258ft/lbs. It’s not a monstrous amount of power, but it’s comparable to GTI models of previous years, which of course featured 2.0-litre engines. Not a bad start then.

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Unlike most hybrids of today, the GTE is – thankfully – not equipped with a CVT. Instead, it comes as standard with a 6-speed DSG transmission. It also features a third clutch which is used to engage or disengage the electric motor. From the driver’s seat, it’s quite simple to swap from a couple of different driving modes. The car defaults to electric-only mode on start up, but can be changed to ‘hybrid’ or ‘battery charging’ modes by using the ‘e-mode’ switch. By choosing ‘GTE’ mode, the car becomes noticeably different, even under light driving conditions. Throttle response is improved, engine braking is much stronger – so as to recover more energy under deceleration – and of course the car’s maximum power is delivered.

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How does all of this translate to the driving experience? In two words: remarkably positive.

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Before I collected the car, I read as much as I could online. Some decried the GTE’s excessive weight as being anti-performance. It’s true, the GTE does have to haul around 120kgs of batteries so it suffers a performance penalty in this regard. But the batteries are distributed to the rear of the car, so the car never feels unbalanced – quite the opposite – but the extra weight does make itself known particularly under heavy braking. Through corners though, I found it to be very well composed, surprisingly so at times.

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When travelling between preferred sections of road, I would often revert to the more casual nature of ‘hybrid’ mode as opposed to the more aggressive ‘GTE’ setting. Even in this less performance orientated mode, the car can carry itself at quite a pace with lots of low down torque courtesy of the electric motor. What I found to be most impressive was the seamless transition of power as the car swapped between electric mode and hybrid mode depending on what it believed to be most efficient at any given time.

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I found the car to require a slightly adjusted driving style to make the most of the hybrid system. Using the DSG selector to briefly engage a strong battery recovery mode on approach to a tightening corner would scrub enough speed without using the brake pedal to make it around at pace. This ‘B’ mode is aggressive enough at times to activate the brake lights, so took a little bit of getting used to. It did add an extra sense of driver involvement though, something I didn’t anticipate prior to driving the car.

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Most of the time though, I found myself in GTE mode. It does sound quite strange talking about these different modes, but unlike a lot of cars that I have driven previously, they really do offer something different in each particular setting. You certainly wouldn’t mistake one mode for another.

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The idea of such technological presence having such an impact on the driving experience may abhor some, but it never felt unnatural or forced. Everything was quite purposeful; I never felt that there were any gimmicks or such present. It’s a complete package without unnecessary trimmings. I genuinely like it.

No Fear
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It’s not perfect though. If I was to level any criticism at the GTE, it would be the very same complaint I levelled at Project GTI when I first bought it. It’s maybe a little bit too sensible.

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Even when set to ‘GTE’, it lacks the occasion that it should have. On the type of roads I introduced this car to, it faired very well. By any means it’s a fast and capable car – as good as any hot hatch I’ve brought over these roads in the last few years.

Take a look at this. I start the video in electric mode and make my way around the hairpin in complete silence, which is a surreal feeling at first. Coming out of the hairpin, I switch to ‘GTE’ and to manual shifting before accelerating. For a car that weighs nearly 1,600kg (3,527lb) it completely belies its on-paper engine size and performance.

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It never feels like its out of place or that it’s struggling at any point. I can’t remember once driving it this week and having that sinking realisation that maybe I’ve pushed too hard. It just soaks everything up and gets on with it with minimum drama.

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It’s a car that’s absolutely deserving of its inclusion within Volkswagen’s GTI family. Not having to rely solely on electricity is a huge plus in my book too, as it removes the range anxiety that typically comes with electric-only cars.

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What I consider far more important than what this car is, is what this car represents. This is very early days for hybrid technology in performance applications, but it’s already incredibly exciting. Almost immediately, manufacturers are on the right path.

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As technologies advance, things can only get better too. Expect batteries to become to lighter and to go further, internal combustion engines to become more efficient at creating power and the systems that control everything to become even more intelligent.

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On a personal note, I don’t think I ever want to see an end to the internal combustion engine. I’ve tried performance diesels and they don’t do much for me. Electric cars are fascinating and great for commuting but lack the character of their fossil fuel burning relatives.

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Whilst petrol is the only real option for a performance enthusiast today, at least in my opinion, it could be replaced by hydrogen further down the line which will hopefully retain the characteristics we’ve come to love of our favourite fossil fuel.

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I suppose the most ringing endorsement I can give the GTE is that, as I write this, it’s parked outside my house for another few days before I drop it back to Volkswagen. I’m off to Mondello in two days for some Speedhunting activities and I have the choice of taking it or Project GTI. Honestly, I’m stumped as to which car to choose.

I guess a hybrid future isn’t something to be afraid of after all.

Paddy McGrath
Instagram: pmcgphotos
Twitter: pmcgphotos

Cutting Room Floor
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I don't understand, are Volkswagen a new partner/sponsor?
Were you short on cars to write about this month?


Hope you get well payed by Volkswagen for that kind of advertising as a reward for the reputation you will loose.


ignore the haters, this looks nice and practical, probably like many peoples cars who follow this site. so what it isn't a fire breathing monster. there are plenty of other decent articles!


I used to check this site daily but now it seems all about selling T-shirts, €400 sheets of aluminum and promoting boring Ford and VW roadcars. Dislike


Cool write up, cool car, thanks Paddy


Ignore the haters, Paddy. Good article.


It's just the same concept as another hybrid car (not this) appealed in China a couple years ago...and the Chinese one does 5.9s(some medias said that they can reach 5.5s...) from none to 100kph...
Pratical. Just like its CN cousin.
And great writeup. Cheer up:)


SH does reviews for a host of car manufacturers. Dino test drove a ZO6 a couple of months ago for crying out loud.


Wow, lots of hate really fast on this article, lemme grab my popcorn! As for the article itself, it really does seem like this is the only hybrid that's both somewhat affordable and performance oriented. I think it may be ahead of its time though as I can't see these selling well in the States. Stunning photos as always, you're making me want to take my next big vacation in Ireland!


Paddy - when all's said and done, how does the real-world fuel consumption of this 1600 kg hatchback compare to your regular GTI? Are the savings significant? 

You say that "this is very early days" for hybrid technology, but unless there are significant developments in battery technology (and it's not like no one has been trying), progress is going to be pretty gradual. We're likely to be lugging around 100 kg+ of batteries for the foreseeable future.


Dill Pickle Yes, and I also dislike it aside from the fact that a Z06 is rather worth to be featured on SH than a stupid Golf with electric auxiliary engine. IMO SH should avoid to be misapplied as a cheap advertising channel for big OEMs like VW, GM, BMW... It's a threat for their credibility. That's my opinion as a true fan of SH.


Great review.  It is really exciting to see that hybrid technologies are being applied to keep cars exciting, rather than boring, and that it's trickling down to the affordable range.


cool, thanks for that!


2.0 engine with the motor would be better :P


Thanks for sharing your experiences Paddy, interesting to see the application of Hybrid technologies in this case, sounds like it's well balanced considering the market it's produced for.


@MRS Dill Pickle I was going to ignore you, but I think we should talk about what Speedhunters is about.

Speedhunters has always been about cars, full stop. It doesn't matter if it's a 3,500hp drag car, a nostalgic restoration or just a simple street car, Speedhunters is about every sort of car on the planet. It's what separates us from every other website out there, we don't specialise in one area or another, we don't look down on anyone and we embrace car culture wherever we can find it.

What does that mean? Often we're going to post cars that you hate as much as you love. This is done on purpose to challenge both us and you to learn new things about our car community. 

FWIW, we've often brought you stock production cars in the past if we feel that they're relevant. Hybrids with a performance edge are absolutely where future production cars are going, regardless we like it or not. So why not drive one and see how they fare? Also, no manufacturers pay to have us showcase their cars. None. 

If you don't like something, that's fine. But don't come in here and start making claims about our reputation and credibility.


fang980805 What car are you talking about? I'd like to read about it. Is it all electric or hybrid? I know that the GTE will do 0-100km/h about a second quicker than VW's claim (which puts it at the quoted GTI figure)


Dill Pickle Thank you, appreciate it.

I'm sure there are others but at the moment it's only this and the Audi A3 eTron that are offered in the market here that come close to being performance orientated hybrids. 

You should definitely holiday in Ireland :-)


modell3000 I didn't carry out any scientific tests but I would estimate that this was around 2L/100kms better on average over a whole tank versus my own GTI. It's far superior in urban driving compared to the GTI (with regards to the fuel consumption), but they're quite evenly matched on the motorway. It's also tax exempt in certain regions or at least attracts a much cheaper annual premium in others. 

I think most electric cars have developed quite remarkably over the last few years, I'd be pretty sure that if more people buy them, the manufacturers will invest even further into the technology. But you're right in that it's going to take time.


Steve Hayward The tech still has a good bit to go to win over hardcore performance enthusiasts, but it's definitely off to a good start.


flyingjolly Thanks for reading :)


iProGam3r I must check up why the GTE is a 1.4 over a 2.0, presume it's to do with meeting emissions standards.


I think this whole hybrid performance tech is actually kind of exciting.  Electric batteries could really only help a car, when speaking in terms of the Acura NSX and such.  Moreover, I completely agree with your theories for hydrogen power, which in my honest opinion, is our only true hope for the dark future of when our precious black gold dries up.  Realistically, hybrid tech is just delaying the inevitable.  Now hydrogen hybrid tech, that's something to look out for.


Dat opening shot, tho...


@toddwithrow9 While Hybrid tech is indeed interesting. I respectfully disagree regarding the hydrogen tech.
Don't forget that water vapor is a more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Also, don't forget the pollution that occurs in the process of producing the hydrogen to be used as fuel; that needs to be studied very carefully.
Just think about the changes in the enviroment that 50,000, one million or more hydrogen cell cars in your city throwing drops of water or vapor can do.
Where is that water going to go when it is produce by the engine of a vehicle? It will come out as liquid or steam, depending on the "exhaust" temperture. Depending on the weather conditions produced steam may rise and form clouds around the road, or it may form fog at the road surface, or it may condense and drop on the road. Even in warm weather water on the road will be dangerous. In freezing weather it will make the road downright treacherous, especially if most or all vehicles on the road are powered by hydrogen fuel cells.
The steam could be condensed and stored as very hot water in a tank in the vehicle. Then the vehicle will eventually have to carry 9 times as much mass as the hydrogen fuel tank carried when full, and the tank will be dangerously hot. Carrying the water around in the vehicle will greatly reduce the energy efficiency of the vehicle. The water tank would have to be emptied when the hydrogen tank is filled, or more often if it is not large enough to hold all the water produced by the total amount of hydrogen in the fuel tank. Pure water is good to have, but it sounds like something with which most vehicle drivers will not want to bother.


LouisYio Trying to pan a car that you're running after is HARD.


Some of those shots on the mountains/roads around Clonmel Paddy ?? Great good fast flowing roads in that neck of the woods.


mining for batteries is far worse for the environment than petro chemicals - valveless heads have'nt even been addressed as a possible huge boost in MPG - instead they go to turbos that in many real use cases achieve worse mpg.

Inductive roadways and battery less electric cars are the eventual future, if the NWO doesnt finish turning us in VR pod people first.


JDMDONG Yeah, not a million miles away anyways. I actually drove the road from Carrick-On-Suir to Clonmel on the south side of the river for the first time, it was absolutely mega. I wouldn't fancy it in a lowered car but it was massive fun in the Golf.


motorness There's very little about the production of a car that's good for the environment. It's a good point though, I remember reading about the production process for the batteries for the Prius some time ago, it was a bit of an eye opener.


Paddy McGrath JDMDONG I used to drive it in a Transit,Lets just say you'd be surprised at the speed a Transit can carry through a bend,


Interesting car, but I'm just here for the first shot.
Thought it was a rig shot, but its a pan shot? Even more wow.


Paddy McGrath modell3000 So if it *saves* 0.44 gallons every 62.1 miles, or 1 gallon every 144 miles, it is saving 1/144 of a gallon per mile. 

For reference, Autocar's long term test of a Mk.7 GTI got 37.2 mpg in combined driving. Over the same 37.2 miles, the GTE would therefore save 1/144 x 37.2 = 0.26 gallons. At 37.2 mpg, that equates to an extra 9.67 miles. So the GTE gets 37.2 + 9.67 = 46.9 mpg. Pretty impressive. 

Unless my maths is faulty, which is entirely possible. Autocar got 41.7mpg for the GTE.

A hybrid is in its element in town, as using stored electric power avoids using the petrol engine inefficiently (part-throttled / idling). Electric power adds nothing on the motorway, though, since motorway conditions are ideal for the petrol engine and the electricity would have to be generated by the petrol engine anyway. Also, there's little scope on the motorway for regenerative braking etc. 

The GTE could have other advantages running as an EV in town - instant torque, silence, lack of fumes and so on. You could even run the GTE as a pure EV most of the time, charging cheaply at home / work, and just use the petrol engine for longer, motorway journeys. Though this seems a bit of a waste.


Paddy McGrath I'll admit, I'm not a VW fan (long story starring a 97' Jetta and 4 transmissions). I'm also a bit reluctant in accepting Hybrid vehicles and also not much into FWD cars in general. With that being said, I'll put all those things aside and stop to read and enjoy pieces you've written and/or photographed every single time. You're a master in your field both online and in print.


Is this the first entry level performance hybrid or have I been under a rock?  If so it makes sense because the 918 is from the same family.


JDMDONG Paddy McGrath Swap 'Transit' with 'LWB Sprinter' and I can definitely relate!


SN95 Lover I was only kidding with Louis, it's a rig shot :)


bluestreaksti I think Audi's A3 eTron may have come through first, but don't think that's geared towards performance. What about the CRZ?


EliThanos Thank you for offering a great counter balance to the hydrogen argument!


eejjkk Paddy McGrath You're too kind, thank you.


Paddy McGrath fang980805  Basicly it is a Toyota Corolla's chassis with some home-developed bodyworks & some batteries & a eletric motor & a 1.5L engine(I have no idea about the engine...), and I hope these would be enough for you because everything I found about this car...are in Chinese...Sorry I couldn't reply to you ASAP and I'm still not good enough to translate some reviews for you...


Looks good, and VW seem keen to push the engineering envelope. They certainly have with my Skoda Twincharge 1.4 which is close to its second rebuild in 4 months thanks to overheating pistons. Seems that they have pushed the envelope a bit too far recently (Twincharge, diesel etc).
That is a pity because they make a good range of interesting cars apart from this...


Paddy McGrath bluestreaksti crz is just a hybrid fit/jazz in a different body. the initial torque is certainly awesome and unusual (as you experienced in the GTE) but after that the sub-150hp power is lacking. a fun car though if you don't expect too much performance. (I drive the CRZ daily)


Paddy McGrath motorness yep. just like what jeremy said in his i8 review. hybrid is an amazing technology but do we really need to take two times the resource for that?


rsrsrs Paddy McGrath bluestreaksti We don't get the CRZ here so wasn't sure how it stacks up against the GTE. I'm certainly struggling to think of others?


modell3000 Paddy McGrath I drive around 24,000KMs per year so would save, approximately, €600 per year on fuel plus another €580 in annual motor tax bills versus my GTI. It's pretty a considerable saving I guess.


Paddy McGrath 
That makes more sense lol


Paddy McGrath rsrsrs bluestreaksti the GTE is probably the first entry performance hybrid I guess. most lower-priced hybrids is certainly geared towards economy. I'm looking forward to where this goes before full-electric, self-driving cars takes over the world.


When it comes to owning a car, we cannot simply follow what everyone else is having. We have to really set our priorities straight and factor in our own needs and preferences. This is to prevent any impulse purchases which might cause a lifetime of regret.


put it on the cool wall paddy! I'm convinced


Paddy McGrath's internal conflict seeks to work itself out by selling Paddy to VAG's PR division to use as a mouthpiece during "Unternehmen Aufräumen" (Operation Clean-up).  Paddy is in their somewhere, but he is lost until this false notion of morality crumbles away to reveal it's true nature, a cold, hard, corporate agenda, and he can regain his own true identity as a Speedhunter.

It's basically like Fight Club in reverse.


Slappy_Pistons Find me another affordable performance hybrid in this market and I'll try get a press booking on one! 

I am a Volkswagen fan though, I can't exactly hide that considering I drive one daily. I do my best to keep that bias in check however and I have the editorial staff here to put a second eye on things too, but I've never required an intervention so to speak. The GTE is genuinely a good car, it's not perfect, but it's a good indication of what's to come. 

Also, my bank account definitely does not back up the statement of selling out, FWIW!


Paddy McGrath Slappy_Pistons I predict Toyota will have something out in the next few years.  I was hoping the "GRMN Sports Hybrid Concept II" (cool name, Toyota) was hinting at a real car, i.e. return of the MR2.


motorness I'm afraid a lot of bullshit was spread by a Statoil sponsored "research" institute in norway. They used lifecycle emissions for batteries not even used in cars and went to the worst numbers they could find for the EV while minimising the ICE. The real production emissions numbers ARE higher for EVs than ICE but only by about 10%...easily made up in the first 6 months of use. Most modern lithium batteries (i.e. not the crap NiMHs used by the prius et al) used for car production are made in Japan/Korea and Poland with proper environmental control.

Honestly, once you'll go EV you'll never go back... I'm on my third... a BMW i3 I do 50,000km in a year. When BMW launched the i3 they put it up in a short drag against the E92 M3 as a press demo... I take it on many of the same roads Paddy was testing on (though I might start heading up north because the castlebar rapid charger should be up in the next few weeks) and its so much fun to drive it's criminal.
I had a test drive in a Tesla Model S P90D last week... and still can't wipe the grin off my face.


motorness As an R&D engineer I seriously doubt inductive roadways will go anywhere, it's too expensive, too complex and we can't look after the roads we already have. It's also unnecessary, batteries are better.
Current battery technology is sufficient to give 100-110kWh in between the axels of something like a model S, which in the real world gives you over 500km of range,. Every single morning the car is full so you only have to think about charging when you exceed your range in a single trip. You can rapid charge using the european standard CCS connector at 170kW which will give you ~300km of range in 20-25 minutes of charging. NCM and NCA batteries have a 20 year lifespan (time to 70% capacity not time to dead) and the industry standard warranty is 8 years/160000km.

Next generation metal air batteries (we have them now but they aren't resident enough) could increase capacity by a factor of 10 and could double or triple charging speed.

Hydrogen.... is a dead end. The math doesn't work. Best case they are three times less efficient than battery electric. They also cost a fortune (the Toyota Mirai's fuel cell costs €50,000 without the rest of the car), have poor power output (the Mirai's fuel cell's maximum output is circa 90kW... the model S battery outputs more than 550kW ), you require special training to fill a fuel cell vehicle, the fuel pumps cost 15-20 times what EV rapid chargers cost, it takes 10-15 minutes to fill the car, some stations can only half pressurise the tank (i.e only half fill), the whole fuel system has an expiry date after which it needs to be replaced, Hydrogen costs twice what petrol costs per km (and cheap rate electricity costs ten times less). And H2 is a pain to handle... it hydridizes seals, embrittles metal, leaks through air tight cracks/gaps and is highly explosive.


EliThanos TBH steam is not a big problem. The big problem is that if you start off with 100kWh of electricity, electrolyse water to o2 and h2, cool and compress the h2, transport it, store it, transfer it to a car, run it through a fuel cell, charge the furl cell vehicles battery and run it through the motor and you end up with 18-19kWh best case used to actually propel the vehicle.

Or...you could just take the 100kWh of electricity, send through the electricity grid we already have and charge a battery. In that case 87-89kWh gets used to propel the vehicle.

The grid in Ireland requires no additional capacity to support more than 20% of cars on the road going EV (because they tend to charge at night when the demand is low anyway). At least in december, 80% of power coming off the grid at night was from renewables too.... and more importantly I can buy electricty for less than half price at night.


....... oh how I'd like this motor to be the 1.8L block....... would it fit?

I'm assuming the 2.0L would not.

although I've heard of the 1.4L tuned to 230hp

could we get a comparison of this against the new Chevy Volt????? That I'd like to see

The Volt intrigue's me - since it's about the same on power & torque as my TDI Cup Edition - similar MPG's too

the looks of the Volt?............um.............. yea........... about that



the car was very good 
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