Lexus LS 600h and GS 450h in Los Angeles, CA

Eco-friendly city meets eco-friendly vehicles

"For the eco-conscious drivers," said Issam

"Yes, our team headed to the hills of Hollywood to test Lexus' hybrid vehicles"

"Lavish and powerful, the 2015 Lexus LS 600h is the ultimate expression of luxury, if you're in the market for a fuel-efficient hybrid luxury sedan"

"Well-executed interior for the GS 450h with exceptional balance of sportiness, refinement and comfort"
Los Angeles: The extravagant city of 'wow' on the west coast of USA. The Hollywood city. The Beverly Hills city. Although I still have a fond place in my heart for New York, most people on earth dream of living in LA.

Our story is not about any extravagant vehicles, nor a long road trip. When you think of the state of California, the first thing that comes to mind is the green environment: green motoring, healthy lifestyle, low fuel consumption, ozone awareness and so on. That makes it the perfect place to test two luxurious vehicles from Lexus: the LS600h and the GS450h.

With so many shiny and colorful vehicle models, it looks like a fine art form driving these two vehicles around the streets of LA! Each and every exceptional Lexus has something different and exciting to offer such as essential safety features packaged with modern luxury and convenience options, all on top of unparalleled vehicle performance.

Lexus hybrid models
Launched in 2005, the RX 400h was the first production full hybrid premium SUV. Succeeded by the RX 450h in 2009, the RX represents the largest share of Lexus hybrid sales globally.

Lexus' second hybrid model, the GS 450h, was introduced in 2006 as the world's first production premium vehicle equipped with a rear wheel drive, full hybrid powertrain.

The third Lexus hybrid model, the LS 600h, was introduced in 2007. The LS 600h was the first production vehicle featuring a V8 powered full hybrid powertrain.

Lexus' fourth hybrid model, the CT 200h, was launched at the end of 2011 and quickly became a major contributor to Lexus sales globally.

What is a hybrid vehicle?
Vehicles with two or more power sources are usually described as being 'hybrid'. In most hybrid cars on the road today, the dual power sources are a 'normal' internal combustion engine and an electric motor. However, the way that the two sources combine to power the car usually follows one of three distinct variations of hybrid arrangements.

Lexus Hybrid Drive is known as a 'full' hybrid system, meaning that its two power sources - a battery-powered electric motor and a petrol-driven combustion engine - are entirely separate from one another. Either one of them can power the car on their own, or the power from both units can be combined.
The second hybrid variation is described as being 'parallel'. In this set up, primary power comes from a normal combustion engine, but it is directly aided by an electric motor fitted between the engine block and gearbox. By the nature of its configuration, the electric motor has to squeeze into a small space in the engine bay between engine and gearbox, limiting the amount of power it can provide and the range of the vehicle when operating in all-electric, or EV, mode. For this reason, parallel hybrids usually offer less functionality than a full hybrid vehicle.

Lastly, the third kind of hybrid is the 'series' type. While this type of hybrid still has two power sources, the vehicle is driven by the electric motor alone; the combustion engine isn't directly connected to the transmission, so it only serves as a generator to provide electrical power for the electric motor. A particular challenge for 'series' hybrids is maintaining efficiency once the battery power is depleted. For this reason, cars with 'series' type hybrid set-ups are rare.

How does Lexus Hybrid Drive work?
All Lexus Hybrid Drive vehicles use six main components: a petrol engine, an electric motor, an electric generator, a battery, a power control unit and a power split device. The power split device uses a special planetary gearbox to distribute power between the engine, motor and generator.

Through this clever combination of technology, Lexus Hybrid Drive can be described as a smart, fuel-saving technology that switches seamlessly and automatically between the electric motor and petrol engine. By monitoring driving conditions, it intelligently manages the flow of power from both sources and can also detect when to combine the two for maximum efficiency and on-road performance.

The Lexus Hybrid Drive system's 'intelligence' allows the two power sources to operate with a wonderful synergy. When the petrol engine is running it drives the generator to charge the battery and when conditions allow it, such as in low speed urban environments, the generator shuts down the petrol engine and lets the electric motor take over - meaning that the car can operate without any harmful emissions. The sophisticated engine management system also recognizes when the car comes to a halt and switches the engine off to conserve power and cut emissions, automatically firing it up again when necessary.
Because of this arrangement, there is never any need to charge the hybrid battery of a car with Lexus Hybrid Drive through any other means, such as by plugging it into a mains supply. Sufficient charge is always supplied to and held within the battery via the petrol engine.

How are the hybrid batteries charged?
The hybrid battery can be charged in two ways: it utilizes energy from the engine for charging as well as the Lexus Hybrid Drive also charges the battery through regenerative braking, a system which recovers energy that would otherwise be wasted during braking.

Every time the brake pedal is pressed or the driver releases the accelerator pedal to lose momentum, the electric motor goes into reverse, in effect becoming an electric brake and thereby generating electricity. This is then diverted to the battery for recycling.

In other words, the braking energy that is usually lost as heat and noise (or simply wasted altogether), is captured and used to power the electric motor later on. In continuous stop/start traffic, a significant amount of energy is recaptured and stored this way, improving the overall efficiency of the Lexus hybrid and maximizing the amount of time it can stay in zero emission, all-electric mode within towns and cities.

Verdict
For the eco-conscious drivers who want more out of a luxury sedan, you can check out both the LS600h and the GS450h. Smooth ride quality and a serene, limo-like ultra-luxurious interior remain the priority of the Lexus LS600h, with driving dynamics more muted than those of some other large luxury sedans. And for the GS450h, it now offers more dramatic, distinctive styling, better performance and better fuel economy numbers that make it a much more well-rounded car than its predecessor.

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