By: Rebecca Ives
As concern grows about the quality of our atmosphere and the impact our actions are having on the planet both the public and manufacturers are looking towards developing changes that can ease the detrimental effect their lifestyles are having upon the environment. In the transport industry electric and hybrid Vehicles are becoming increasingly popular. Most manufacturers now offer at least a hybrid option in their range - but what exactly are hybrids and electric cars and how can they make our lives better?
A Hybrid car uses an electric motor and either diesel or petrol to power the engine of the vehicle. There are different types of hybrid available:
- A regular Hybrid or HEV uses the electric motor to drive the car at low speeds when the engine is turned off. When the car needs maximum acceleration both the engine and electric motor work together, the diesel or petrol engine alone is used for traveling at high speed. Power is regenerated through braking technologies and there is no need to charge the car.
- A Plug-in-Hybrid or PHEV can be plugged into selected electrical outlets in order to charge the battery but still works in the same way as a regular Hybrid.
- A Hydrogen Electric Vehicle uses a mixture of hydrogen and oxygen within a fuel cell to generate electric power however, these cars are uncommon due to their high cost. There are currently less than ten charging stations for this type of vehicle in the UK.
- Depending upon the manufacturer and model, Hybrid Cars can have either a petrol or diesel engine in support of the electric motor.
- An Electric Car or EV is driven purely by an electric motor and does not have a petrol or diesel engine.
When an electric or Plug-In-Hybrid car needs to be charged they are simply plugged in to an electrical outlet. There are currently three types of charging available, through a regular mains socket, a specialist home charging station or a public charging station:
- A Slow 3kw Charger is as it says, slow. This will take the longest to charge your car and it can be done through a normal three-pin mains socket. This type is best for charging your car overnight as it can take six to eight hours.
- A Fast Charger is usually between 7 and 22kw and can charge most car models within three to four hours.
- A Rapid Charger uses 43-50kw of energy to charge your car and is the fastest method allowing an 80% charge in 30 minutes.
As the number of electric cars on the market continues to grow so will the number of available public charging stations. It is estimated that by 2020 the number of EV stations could outnumber petrol stations as there are already over 4,000 public EV charging points and less than 8,500 petrol stations in the UK. Of course, there is a fee for using some public electric charge points. Most companies ask you to install an app on your phone and purchase a card that you link to your bank account or credit card in order to pay.
There are around 20 different companies that are offering public charge points which could mean having to carry a lot of extra cards about with you. Finding a charge station is easy with websites like Zap Map who have an extensive list of charge points within the UK and their charge types.
- Better for the Environment– Depending upon the car, CO2 emissions can be significantly reduced or even eliminated when using an electric motor to power your car. Using the electric motor also conserves the use of diesel and petrol which could in time reduce the impact sourcing fossil fuels has on the environment. Electric cars are almost silent, meaning that noise pollution is vastly reduced.
- Financial Implications – You could save money on Road Tax as many Hybrid cars are within a lower tax band. Most electric cars do not pay for road tax and also exempt from paying congestion charges. As you are using less petrol or diesel you are able to better to control your budget, as we are all aware the cost of electricity is significantly lower than petrol or diesel. You may also be entitled to a government grant to help fund the purchase of a hybrid or electric car.
- Government Grant – The UK Government is currently offering a grant that covers 35% of the cost of a car with a maximum of between £2,500 and £4,500 depending on the model and 20% of the cost of a van with a maximum of £8,000. A grant is also available to homes wishing to install an electric vehicle home charge point and for those who do not have access to a parking spot close enough to their home funding is available for local councils to install EV charging points in the local area.
- Built From Lighter Materials - Many manufacturers are making all vehicles more streamlined in order to conserve less energy. The engines on most hybrids are smaller and the materials used are lighter therefore the car is more likely to save energy.
- Higher Resale Value - Due to increasing prices in fossil fuels and more people being conscious of the effect the use of these resources have on the environment and are considering buying a hybrid or electric car. Therefore, second hand hybrid and electric cars are holding their resale value more so than regular cars.
- Generates Its Own ‘Fuel’ – On many new hybrid and electric cars the braking system helps recharge the battery by capturing energy released when the brake is applied.
- Higher Purchase Cost - Hybrid and Electric cars can be more expensive upon initial purchase i.e. for the sale cost of the car. However, this can be offset by the savings on running costs including fuel and exemptions or discounts on road tax and congestion charges, as well as a potential grant towards the car’s cost.
- Fewer Car Repair Specialists - Even though the market for these types of car is steadily increasing there are fewer garages specialising in the repair of electric and hybrid cars, therefore any unforeseen repairs may be costly. Our recommendation is to take it to an approved dealership or repair centre who have the specialist tools and knowledge to repair your car using genuine parts.
- Less Speed & Power – Many Hybrid and Electric cars have lower top speeds and smaller engines. Whilst some people may class that as a disadvantage, top speeds achieved are usually well over the national speed limit.
- Overall Weight of Vehicle – Due to the edition of a battery, the overall weight of hybrid cars is often increased to that of their single fuel counterparts. This is being combatted by using lighter materials to build the car.
- Access to your property – If you do not have a driveway or garage then charging your Hybrid or Electric Car could be almost impossible from home. Though the number of public charging stations in the UK is increasing at a rapid rate. How convenient would it be for you to find your nearest one each time you needed to charge your car?
Sales of electric and plug in Hybrid cars have reached 70,000 in the UK market alone in 2016 and are set to continue. What do you think? What would convince you to buy an EV, HEV or PHEV? Are you more concerned about the environment or the implications on your finances? Let us know your thoughts.
Take a look at our top-five Hybrids and Electric cars to find out about the versatile selection of vehicles available with such technology.
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