- We take a look at the pros and cons of buying a hybrid car
- Is now the time to make the switch?
- How do hybrids stack up against diesel power?
Hybrid technology has been around since 2000 in the UK, however you wouldn’t be alone if you’d never driven one. Although small sale volumes initially caused many to doubt the new technology, there are significant benefits to choosing a hybrid as your next new car and momentum is building.
Should I buy a hybrid car?
Is now the time to consider buying a hybrid car, or is diesel the better choice? Here we take a closer look at the pros and cons for both.
How do hybrid cars work?
If you’re looking for the low CO2 emissions found in electric cars but don’t want to be restricted on how many miles you can travel, hybrid technology offers the best of both worlds.
Hybrid cars essentially combine an electric motor with a combustion engine (usually petrol). Conventional hybrid cars uses the electric motor to supplement the engine for improved acceleration, while regenerative braking helps charge the batteries - such as the Toyota Auris and Lexus CT200h. Although offering lower running costs and emissions than most diesels, conventional hybrids can only be driven for a short amount of time on electric power alone.
What’s a plug-in hybrid?
Plug-in hybrids are a little different. They can be charged at the mains and have an indicated range where the car can be driven on electric power, significantly more than the conventional hybrids mentioned above – examples include the Audi A3 e-tron and Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.
Another type of hybrid is a range-extender, but rather than drive the car, the combustion engine charges the batteries instead so you can travel more miles on electric power. A good example is the BMW i3 range extender. Think of these more like an electric car with an on-board generator.
Is hybrid right for you?
Hybrids are at their best when being driven in urban settings. Plug-ins and range extenders especially suit city life as they have a lot more capability to be driven solely on electric power. When the speed climbs above a certain level or the battery begins to run out of energy, the car automatically switches to the conventional engine to power the wheels and charge the batteries.
What’s the VED car tax on hybrid cars?
Hybrids offer both lower tax costs and running cost improvements.
Legislation is only going to get tighter. In April 2017 the VED car tax bands changed, and only cars that emit zero emissions (electric cars) will be tax-free. If you live in London, some hybrid cars will qualify to be exempt from the congestion charge if they emit less than 75g/km. The congestion charge currently costs £11.50 per day, and there is now the new ULEZ - Ultra Low Emission Zone - which operates in the same area as the congestion charge, and requires drivers of cars not meeting the emissions standards to pay an additional £12.50 per day. For more information about London's congestion and emissions charges, visit the tfl.gov.uk website.
There's also the fuel savings - which potentially could cost you nothing if you only use the electric range. One of the perks to driving on electric power is that you’ve got 100 percent of the car’s torque from zero revs, meaning instant reaction when you push the accelerator. There’s also very little engine noise to be heard.
It’s important to make sure a hybrid fits into your lifestyle. If most of your journeys involve long motorway distances it’s unlikely you’ll see the cost advantages mentioned above. If you buy a plug-in, remember that you’ll need to allow a fair few hours for charging each day if you’re planning on making the most of the battery power.
How much do hybrid cars cost to buy?
There’s also the higher purchase price to consider. A hybrid is almost always going to cost more than a comparable diesel - some as much as 20 percent more - so you’ll need to travel a lot of miles and run your hybrid for a number of years to recoup the extra cost. To help combat the higher purchase price the government is currently offering up to 35 percent or a maximum of £3,500 off certain hybrid cars – check if the car you’re looking to buy qualifies on the gov.uk website.
Hybrid cars - the pros
- Minimal tax bills
- Most are congestion charge free
- No fuel costs if driven on electric power
Hybrid cars - the cons
- Expensive price tag
- Unknown residual values
- Charging times
- Limited electric range
Should I get a diesel car instead of a hybrid?
Today’s diesel engines are a far cry from the dirty, clattery powertrains of old and not only are they more refined, they’re more economical too. One of the big draws to diesel engines is the fuel economy they offer and although not as impressive as hybrid on paper, if you’re planning on driving mainly long motorway journeys, diesel will in most cases be the more economical choice.
In comparison to hybrids, diesel are almost always the cheaper choice to buy too - but there's fuel to consider and higher tax bills to factor into your costs.
It’s also commonly accepted that diesel cars aren’t normally as quiet to drive as petrol or hybrid cars, too.
Diesel cars - the pros
- Cheaper to buy than hybrids
- Known residual values
- Refuelling takes minutes instead of hours recharging batteries
Diesel cars - the cons
- Fuel costs
- Higher tax bills
- May not be as nice to drive
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