Hybrid hypercars are here … but not to stay

The latest in a string of high performance hybrids just debuted: the Lamborghini Asterion. Yet despite the insane looks and performance, the most interesting thing was what Lambo chief Stephan Winkelmann told Digital Trends: high-performance hybrids are a stop-gap — and one that the company wishes it didn’t have to make.

The technical and environmental reasons that Lamborghini made the Asterion a hybrid seem likely to dominate the next decade. Yet, as we will explore, hybrid hypercars may not be long for this world.

Why hybrids?

The reason for the Asterion’s existence are tightening emissions laws, specifically the 2021 European emissions standards that set a maximum CO2 emissions at 95 g/km. This is undoubtedly a good thing for anyone who doesn’t want the ocean rising to greet them in the next few decades. However, it leaves supercar makers and lovers in a difficult position.

Emissions regulations apply generally to all cars sold, meaning a limited-edition hypercar needs to meet the same standards as a humble family car. Hybrid tech can do a lot to bridge that gulf, which is why Lamborghini isn’t alone in pursuing hybrid tech. Other exotic manufacturers, Porsche, Ferrari, and McLaren, have all released their own hybrid hypercars, which we have pictured above.

Using battery-based hybrid tech allows manufacturers to improve the efficiency of existing internal combustion engines, particularly under the sort of normal driving conditions under which efficiency is tested.

Hybrid tech is also a well-understood field that requires far less research and development than the alternatives. This matters when companies are producing cars of which they only plan on producing several hundred. It is a lot harder to recoup research and development dollars on a production run of 200, than it is for a mass-market automaker that might use the technology on literally millions of cars.


What’s the problem?

Even so, hybrid tech has costs. Some are literal costs; high performance batteries and the lightweight composites needed to counteract their weight are expensive. That’s part of why the high-performance hybrids cost upwards of $1 million.

Then there is perhaps the biggest concern in supercar performance: weight. In the case of the Lamborghini Asterion, its 551-pound battery pack and electric motors make up something like one fifth or one sixth of the total weight of the car. According to Winkelmann, this added weight prevented the Asterion from being a true supercar, hence why it’s considered a “hyper cruiser.”

Winkelmann went on to explain that they could have compensated for the weight by using more carbon fiber and other composites in the bodywork. However, this would have made the car too expensive. From the CEO of a company that sells a car that costs $4 million, that’s saying something.

So, for now, high-performance hybrids are either a compromise when it comes to performance or prohibitively expensive for even normal supercar buyers.

Why it won’t last

It is hard to see the problems with hybrid technology going away. Batteries are the real problem with the technology. As long as batteries remain heavy and expensive, so, too, will the cars that use them. However, if batteries become lighter and more efficient, then there will be no reason to mate them to a big, heavy internal combustion engine.

For supercars, where price is less of a concern, we may be closer to that transition then many people might expect. Of course some people, like Elon Musk, already think that battery technology is ready for this transition.

The transition to pure electric isn’t the only alternative either. Lamborghini believes that the future for supercars is still internal combustion, just in a more efficient guise like turbocharging. The brand isn’t alone. Founder and president of Koenigsegg, Christian von Koenigsegg, also believes that hybrids are a waste of time.

Both supercar makers think that efficiency standards can be met by using advanced forms of forced induction rather than hybridization. On the face of things, it’s hard to see how turbocharging and supercharging can produce the insane power we have become accustomed to while still scraping below the stringent emissions standards.

Yet, Winkelmann and Koenigsegg are hardly the sorts of people to discount; and there is already evidence of what forced induction can accomplish. Volvo is leading the way with its new, small displacement powerplants that are capable of producing astounding power and emissions through the use of both superchargers and turbochargers.

Winkelmann expects similar technology from Lambo to help the brand meet emissions standards in 2021, without the use of batteries.



Hybrid hypercars are immensely impressive demonstrations of technical achievement. So it is tempting to think of them as the future of high-performance motoring. Ultimately, though, these cars are compromises between the need to meet regulations and technological limitations.

The regulatory pressure to improve efficiency and emissions will continue, but technological development is likely to push high-performance automakers away from the complexity and cost of hybrids. Mass-market automakers may continue to use hybrid technology where the added weight and limitations are not such strong liabilities. But, ultimately, the very reason for hybrids – batteries – is likely to make them irrelevant.

Emerging Tech

Michigan’s former transportation chief has some advice for wannabe smart cities

After 31 years as Michigan’s transportation director, Kirk Steudle has seen it all, particularly with smart city projects. He spoke with Digital Trends recently about what makes smart cities work, and offers advice along the way.

Born to run (forever): The most reliable cars you can buy right now

We all dread the thought of our car turning into a money pit, but choosing a dependable vehicle from the start can help us rack up countless care-free miles. Here, we've rounded up some of the most reliable cars available.

Our favorite fuel-efficient cars are as frugal as they are fun

You don't need to opt for a hybrid or an all-electric ride in order to achieve good fuel economy. These vehicles pack both performance and style, whether you're in the market for a luxury sedan or a game-changing pickup truck.

From Rolls-Royce to Lamborghini, these are the most expensive cars in the world

If you recently discovered an oil reserve in your backyard, you probably have some extra cash to spend. Look no further, because we’ve rounded up the most expensive cars in the world.

Out of juice? Learn how to jump-start a car with this quick guide

Jumping a car is a simple procedure, but not everyone knows how to properly do so. To make things easier, we've put together a quick-hit guide on how to fire up your vehicle using jumper cables and a second power source.

Prep your car for the coming snow and sleet with these cold weather tips

Driving in the winter, whether downtown or across the country, is rarely easy. Luckily, we've put together a quick rundown of a few things you should do to winterize your car before the snow officially hits.

Many adults believe fully self-driving cars are already traversing U.S. highways

The American Automobile Association tested cars with features such as lane-keeping and adaptive cruise control and found them lacking in real-world conditions. Forty percent of surveyed U.S. adults think self-driving cars exist now.
Digital Trends Live

DT Daily: Waymo’s driverless cars, ‘Fallout 76’ tips, and Racella

In today's episode of DT Daily, we discuss Waymo's foray into the ridesharing sector, along with various tips for making the most of the recently launched Fallout 76. We also sit down with singer Racella to chat about her new EP, Waves.

Want to keep connected on the road? Here are 5 ways to add Bluetooth to your car

The best way to make an old ride feel young again is to bring it up speed with the 21st century. Here's how to properly add Bluetooth to your vehicle, via independent kits, vehicle adapters, or aftermarket head units.

Jeep’s outdoorsy Gladiator pickup truck bares it all ahead of schedule

Jeep will introduce the long-promised Wrangler-based pickup truck at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show. Named Gladiator, the model was designed to conquer the great outdoors, not for the construction site.

The hamster-friendly 2020 Kia Soul will rock out at the Los Angeles Auto Show

Kia has released a teaser image to preview the next Soul. Scheduled to make its debut at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show, the 2020 Soul will keep the outgoing model's boxy proportions but it will wear a sharper design.

2020 Toyota Corolla sedan aims to offer sharper handling, better tech

The 2020 Toyota Corolla sedan gets the same upgrades as the recently-introduced Corolla hatchback, including a firmer foundation, new engine, and more tech features. Will that be enough to keep the long-lived Corolla nameplate relevant?

Startup Rivian exits stealth mode with a bold promise to electrify off-roaders

Electric car startup Rivian has finally turned off stealth mode and provided details about what it's been working on since 2009. It will build battery-powered off-roaders instead of taking on Tesla and others in the luxury EV segment.

Honda will squeeze another model into its SUV lineup at the Los Angeles show

Honda will introduce a new SUV with a familiar nameplate at the 2018 Los Angeles auto show. It envisioned the 2019 Passport as a five-seater alternative to the eight-seater Pilot. The two models will share a platform and many tech features.