With the recent demonisation of the diesel engine consumers are looking at other ways to get their cheap motoring costs fix. Hybrid cars aren’t a new concept, back in 1898 Dr Ferdinand Porsche second development was a hybrid that used an engine to spin a generator that in turn powered electric motors positioned on each wheel, the car on battery alone could travel 40 miles. Fast forward to 1997 and the Toyota Prius became the first mainstream hybrid car, in its first year on the market in Japan sales hit nearly 18,000.
So what are hybrids are why should we be considering them as our next car purchase?
Hybrid cars consist of an internal combustion engine which can be either petrol or diesel and an electric motor. The most common type of hybrid that most manufacturers develop is the parallel hybrid system, this means that the cars propulsion comes either from the combustion engine, electric motor or a combination of both. The electric motor if it has enough battery charge will power the vehicle up to 15-20mph ideal for around town, but will then switch to the combustion engine for higher speeds or when the battery has run out of charge. A lot of hybrid cars will also feature something called regenerative braking which uses energy produced when the car decelerates or brakes are applied to recharge the battery.
Plug in hybrids?
Plug in hybrids are becoming ever more popular as they have the ability to be plugged into a normal house mains plug or a car park charging point which will charge up the batteries whilst the car isn’t in use. When plugged into the house mains charing can take up to 8-10 hours, whilst fast chargers found at motorways are a lot quicker. The benefit of a plug in is that electric motor range can be extended over night meaning that a journey of 20 miles to work can be achieved purely on battery power if the car is charged at night and at work. The vehicle will also use regenerative breaking to charge its batteries up.
Another type of hybrid is the range extender, cars such as the BMW i3 use this method which involves a combustion engine that never drives the wheels, instead the engine is only used to generate energy for the electric motor. This means the car only uses an electric motor to move the car but will require fuel to power the combustion engine to top up the energy required for the electric motor.
Sales of hybrids is growing year on year, in 2017 a combined total of electric vehicles and hybrids sold was over 46,000 compared to 36.500 the previous year. Its obvious to see that alternatively fuelled cars are gaining popularity but it also important to see if a hybrid would fit your lifestyle and whether or not it would actually save you money. Hybrids are like any other conventional car to drive, sometimes performance is even improved due to the acceleration capabilities of an electric motor. All hybrids include automatic gearboxes and most have different settings available so you can switch between using the battery charge or storing it later for city driving.
Company car drivers will see a reduced payment of Benefit in Kind (BIK) tax and cars that emit less than 75g/km of CO2 are exempt from the London congestion charge. The UK government also offer incentives to buy hybrids with a grant based on what category of hybrid you choose to buy.
On paper the MPG figures reaching 100-150 look impressive but this is rarely achievable, the economy of a hybrid relies a lot on how and where it is driven, if you drive predominantly around towns and cities then a hybrid would prove a frugal choice, but if mile munching motorway miles is your daily grind then a hybrid would prove extremely expensive to run. Hybrids are often heavier than their combustion engine counterparts due to the addition of an electric motor and heavy batteries, the batteries also take up space so the fuel tank is smaller.
Would a hybrid suit me?
- Can save you a lot of money if you drive around towns a lot
- Lower tax payments
- Some hybrids are exempt from London congestion charge
- Reduces range anxiety that you get with electric only vehicles
- May prove more expensive depending on roads driven
- Expensive components and vehicle has to be maintained by trained technicians
- Batteries can take up boot space
3rd July, 2018