(note: this article first appeared in the November 2020 issue of Autocar Philippines Magazine)
Understanding what the Hybrid is all about.
Most manufacturers are gearing up for the eventual elimination of gas-powered engines to hybrid systems and all electric powertrain. Toyota Motors is one of them, and in fact, is spearheading a commitment to more environment friendly system, not only does it include its products but also on its whole manufacturing technique.
Although launched a year ago by Toyota Motors Philippines (TMP), the Corolla Altis 1.8 V Hybrid CVT still hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves. One reason is the technical stuff that goes with the vehicle that sends an unfriendly vibe. This is why we wanted to tackle this part; a layman’s understanding on how a hybrid works, and how it will benefit the Filipino driver.
A hybrid has two sources of power; the gas engine and the electric motor. The gas engine is an Atkinson Cycle- VVT-I, 4-Cylinder In-Line DOHC, 16 Valve configuration with 97 hp / 5,200 rpm and a torque rating of 142 Nm / 3,600 rpm. Not very impressive on paper, but this engine works best with a complimentary power source like an electric motor. Less power means more fuel efficiency. But the electric motor provides additional power when needed, with an additional 25 horses.
This is best described as the process in which the intake valve is open longer than normal, resulting in a reverse flow of intake air into the intake manifold. This “simulated” Atkinson cycle is most notably used in the Toyota 1NZ-FXE engine from the early Prius.
Like the EV, starting the Altis Hybrid dash lights up, but without no discerning noise. This means the electric motor is now at work. You can immediately drive away without the perennial warm-up. The gas engine starts up after a few minutes to take over the chores, and to charge the batteries. You will notice this from a slight quiver from the steering wheel and a barely discernible hum emanating inside.
First thing you will notice is the noise, or the lack of it, especially if you are coasting in traffic at about 10-15kph. Pedestrians wouldn’t hear you coming, especially on vacant roads. Stop and go is a bit slow especially when in ECO mode, but acceleration is smooth, courtesy of the CVT transmission (more on that later).
After an hour in traffic, the reported fuel consumption was about 6 Liters per 100 km or about 16km/L. Not too shabby, definitely an improvement over gas-powered sedans. Remember that this was heavy traffic.
Press power mode, the response is instantaneous, as both power sources are working together now. Passing is easier and more fun.
Highway drive was next. The Altis Hybrid was driven to Bataan 100km away, for a real feel on highways. Running at 90kph on NLEX yielded a 4L/100Km reading. (25km/L). 70kph showed the most efficient consumption at 3.5L/100Km. (28km/L)
This was with driver and one passenger and a few bags). The ride was comfortable enough, but on uneven roads, the big tires sent vibrations to the occupants. The steering was light but deemed a bit sensitive than most power steering.
How does the Hybrid System really work?
From standing start, the electric motor does the job. Crawl speed to at least 15kph, then the gas engine kicks in. In city driving for example, stopping at traffic lights or intersection reverts the chore to the electric motor. Crawling speed is also handled by the electric motor however, in prolonged stop or idling, the gas engine takes over since the battery will be recharged.
The electric motor engages during constant speed, such as clear roads or highways. You will see the EV light on the dash turn on. However, pressing on the accelerator reverts power to the gas engine.
As indicated on the dash, braking charges the batteries. The wheels have a dynamo that spins during braking, taking advantage of the stopping force by converting it to energy. (Regenerative braking) which returns otherwise wasted energy from braking to the hybrid drivetrain
You will notice the shifter indicator is a bit different. Instead of the usual, P-R-D-L or P-R-D-M (manual) is the P-R-D-B. What is B you may ask? B is for Braking. Because the Corolla Altis has the aforementioned “regenerative braking”, shifting to B when descending a hill for example, frees the brakes from being overloaded. It’s more of like shifting to a lower gear for engine brake. While some people think that “B” charges the battery more, this is not so in this case.
The dash display is different. no tachometer or big speedometer. What you have is the charge meter on the left, gas level and temperature on the right, and vehicle information in the middle. The digital speedometer is perched above barely noticeable.
The seats, although in colorful black, is actually firm and comfortable. The front seats look sporty too, mimicking seats from sports cars. The protruding headrest and shoulder stops are a very nice touch.
The rear seats also fold down to extend the already cavernous cargo area. Long and bulky items are a cinch. You can even fit a full size bicycle in there.
The entertainment system is just a basic 2-din unit, with TLink and Smartphone Mirroring, not even Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. The sound quality from the speakers is impeccable, however.
The body design is no different from the gas variant. Except for the blue-halo logo and Hybrid emblems, they’re basically the same. The gaping grille and slim headlights in front has a more aggressive look than the previous models, with twin L-shaped DRLs for the win. Rear taillights also compliment the already sporty look of the Altis.
The 17in rim/tire combination is much appreciated, thanks to a wider 225/45/17 rubber specs. It betrays the eco-box reputation by giving it a wide stance.
Simply put, the VVT of the engine is utilized to allow the intake valve longer, permitting a reverse flow of air to the intake manifold. This results in less fuel consumed, raising fuel efficiency. This also makes less power. This is where the electric motor comes in; providing additional pull to the engine. The VVT can also adjusts and add power to specific needs, such as closing the valves earlier for more compression.
Atkinson-cycle 1.8-liter engine: 97hp, 142Nm. Combined power output is 121hp at 5,000rpm and 230Nm at a low 3,000rpm.
For more information, visit www.toyota.com.ph
Text/images by Earl Manalansan