Hypercars — What Are They?

by CarInsurance.com Staff Writer on February 21, 2012

Across the political spectrum, most people agree that one of the best ways to lower the country’s dependence on foreign oil and improve air quality is to produce cars that are far more fuel efficient than the vehicles of today. This consensus is not new. Since the dawn of the automotive industry over one hundred years ago, automobile manufacturers, spurred on by congressional action, have sought to increase the fuel efficiency of their fleets of cars and trucks. Unfortunately, while progress has been made, it has become increasingly harder to make substantial improvements in efficiency without sacrificing vehicle durability and safety.

A new direction must be followed if the twin goals of fuel efficiency and vehicle safety are to be met. This is where hypercars come in. First designed in the mid-1990s, hypercars offer promising design principles for vastly increasing fuel efficiency without sacrificing vehicle safety, durability, or performance.

What Iis a Hypercar?

The Hypercar® was first proposed by Amory B. Lovins, the chairman and cofounder of the Rocky Mountain Institute, a think tank devoted to improving energy efficiency in industry and home use. Concerned about the impact of fossil fuels on the environment, Lovins proposed the Hypercar® in order to help the automotive industry develop automobiles that would use less gasoline but would also be popular with the general public. Essentially, the Hypercar® trademarked by the Rocky Mountain Institute is a vehicle that achieves superior efficiency through the use of aerodynamic design, the incorporation of composite materials, and the application of other principles. Today, many cars that use these principles are known simply as hypercars.

In the past, achieving fuel efficiency often came at the expense of vehicle appearance, safety, and performance, but the principles illustrated in hypercar design aim to overcome these problems. One of the best ways to improve a vehicle’s fuel efficiency is to lower its weight, but simply using a lighter metal to construct a vehicle body often renders the vehicle more apt to crumble in the event of a car crash. Composite material construction, however, maintains safety and reduces the weight of the final vehicle because composite materials do not sacrifice strength for the sake of reduced weight. Improved aerodynamic design also improves efficiency while maintaining the sleek look that many people want in their cars and trucks. By incorporating both aerodynamic design and composite material construction, hypercars improve fuel efficiency in a way that also allows automakers to build vehicles that people actually want to buy.

In any case, hypercar advocates claim that hypercar design principles can create a three-to-fivefold improvement in overall fuel efficiency. Such claims must be taken seriously, and an increasing number of car manufacturers are applying hypercar principles in the construction of fuel efficient vehicles.

Are There Hypercars on the Road Today?

Work began on hypercars in earnest during the 1990s, but it is only in recent years that such vehicles have become more widely available to the general public. In one sense, any modern hybrid vehicle can be considered a hypercar, and there are several models that are available to the buying public.

  • The Toyota Prius is certainly one of the most well-known hypercars on the market today. The Prius has been available internationally since 2001, and it remains one of the most popular hypercar sedans on the market today.
  • Those who want a car that has more room than a sedan have many different hybrid SUVs and vans to choose from. The Ford Escape Hybrid was the first hybrid SUV ever produced, proving that hypercar design principles could be effectively incorporated into larger vehicles.
  • Truck enthusiasts have long had to put up with pickup trucks that offer the performance they want but that are also very inefficient. The application of hypercar design principles to pickup trucks has drastically improved the fuel efficiency of these utility vehicles in recent years. The current Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid, for example, gets just over twenty miles per gallon, which is a vast improvement over non-fuel efficient truck models.
  • These three popular hybrids by no means exhaust the variety and number of hypercars available today. Automakers continue to introduce new models, demonstrating that hypercars are here to stay.
  • Special Hypercar Financial Concerns:

  • Cost to Purchase

Modern hybrids and other cars that incorporate hypercar design principles tend to be more costly than normal vehicles. Although costs are coming down, these high costs tend to be what keep many people from purchasing them.

Fortunately, however, the U.S. government has put several incentives in place in order to make these fuel efficient vehicles more affordable. Most of these incentives come in the form of tax credits provided to those who buy cars that are constructed with hypercar design principles. These tax credits are available to both individuals and corporations who buy said vehicles. Buyers looking to take advantage of these tax credits should make sure that the vehicle they want to purchase qualifies for a credit before they buy it.

    • Insurance and Upkeep

Buyers of hypercars also have higher maintenance and insurance costs than those who buy normal vehicles. These costs are due mainly to the high cost of the vehicles and the special materials and skills needed to repair them. Contrary to popular belief, the higher insurance costs have nothing to do with hypercars being somehow less safe than normal vehicles. The higher costs are largely to the smaller size of these cars and the general driving tendencies of those who drive smaller vehicles.

Are Hypercars the Future?

The Rocky Mountain Institute has several papers that show how its Hypercar® and general hypercar design principles are the wave of the future. These fuel efficient vehicles are here to stay, and it is clear that they will continue to transform the modern auto industry

Leave a Comment

Previous post: