Hybrid cars – a savvy choice?

 

The main advantages of hybrids are that (if used as intended) they consume less fuel and emit less CO2 than a comparable conventional petrol or diesel.

Hybrid owners also get extra benefits in the shape of lower first year road tax and company car tax, as well as possibly avoiding congestion charges.

Night dashboard

How do hybrid cars work?

There are three different types of hybrids and each works in a different way:

PARALLEL HYBRID CARS The most common type of hybrid. The car’s wheels can be powered in three different ways: either directly by the engine, by the electric motor alone, or by both power sources working together. When pulling away, and at speeds up to 15mph, this type of hybrid only uses the electric motor, making it very economical for stop-start driving. The petrol engine cuts in as speed increases, and it is used most during hard acceleration. Whenever you decelerate or use the brakes, the regenerative braking system produces electricity and stores it in the battery for use later on. The battery is big enough that the electric motor can power the car for up to 1.25 miles.

 

RANGE EXTENDER HYBRID CARS These only use their conventional engine to produce electricity for a generator that recharges the batteries. The engine never drives the car, it only produces energy for the electric motor.

 

PLUG-IN HYBRIDS As the name implies, this type of hybrid can be plugged into an electric outlet to recharge the batteries, as well as being charged on the move. Effectively, they are a halfway house between conventional hybrids and full electric vehicles. Although they have a conventional engine, they also have larger batteries than regular hybrids and can drive longer distances on electric power alone – up to 30 miles in some cases.

What are the benefits of a hybrid car?

Driving a hybrid is similar to driving a conventional automatic car, so no real downside in performance, in fact as the power delivery is more instant with an electric motor, you actually have more power to hand, or foot, (sorry).

A choice of power modes (ranging from eco to sport) deliver maximum efficiency depending on the driving conditions. Range anxiety isn’t an issue and you don’t really need a charging point because most hybrids charge up their own batteries. Although the tax benefits of hybrid ownership aren’t as great as they used to be, you will still pay less Benefit-In-Kind (BIK) tax than drivers of petrol or diesel cars, and cars emitting less than 75g/km qualify for London congestion charge exemption.

Should you buy a hybrid car?

A hybrid car will suit a lot of trainers racking up mileage in and around town reaping the big benefit of running on electric only power (effectively, almost,  free travel, and cutting a major cost of a training school business). However, fleet trainers in particular may benefit more from an efficient diesel car. It’s likely to provide better high-speed fuel economy than a hybrid because motorways and fast A-roads are the types of road on which hybrids are least efficient.

Top hybrid cars

  • BMW i3 Range Extender

  • Golf GTE

  • Toyota Prius/Prius Plug-in

  • Mini Countryman Cooper S E All4

  • Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid/Plug-in Hybrid

  • Audi A3 Sportback e-tron

  • Kia Optima PHEV

  • Ford Mondeo Hybrid

  • Lexus CT200h

  • Toyota Auris Hybrid

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