Do Ariel Atom drivers give a damn about fuel economy? It seems unlikely. The car is all about smiles per mile, tromping hard on the gas pedal over and over, and drifting sideways through turns with a big sloppy grin on your face. But that doesn’t mean the Ariel Atom couldn’t be offered with a hybrid powertrain some day.
The key the whole thing is that Ariel sources its engines and transmissions from Honda. Engineering an all new powertrain for a road car is difficult. Getting it certified to meet existing emissions and fuel economy standards can cost millions of dollars. As a small volume manufacturer, it is much simpler and cheaper for Ariel to get it powertrains from someone else.
Honda has developed an advanced hybrid power for the new Acura NSX. Ariel boss Simon Saunders tells Autocar, “The technology in the NSX is cutting edge and expensive, but it will work its way down the food chain to the hot hatches. At that point, it becomes achievable for us to use in the Atom.”
Saunders says Ariel has already considered integrating other Honda hybrid powertrains into the Atom but decided that none was powerful enough or appropriate for a sporting application. “Obviously, for Honda it’s more about emissions, but for us it’s mostly a performance thing.” Saunders added that Ariel’s approach always revolves around getting maximum performance from its engines. Reduced emissions and improved fuel economy are positive effects but not the priority. “It is important to us, though. We’re looking at taking the Atom to EU6 now,” he said.
Looking further ahead, Saunders believes an all electric Atom would make sense. “I think Atom will move with the times,” he said. He says that Ariel’s brand image of creating high performance sports cars isn’t actually the company’s main focus. “Our interest was always to make a spread of vehicles that could encompass all things, including a high volume model, limited edition models, and anything up to a chauffeur driven limousine,” he says. “I can’t go into any details right now, but some of the other stuff we’re looking at is quite different from what we’re doing right now.”
That’s all very interesting, but could we please have an NSX derived Ariel Atom hybrid in the Gas2 garage? We promise to drive it every day and give our readers a full report when its time to return it. 6 months or so should be enough time for us to get to know the car and report on it in exquisite detail. Thanks. We really appreciate it.