02.Owning an Electric or Hybrid Car
If the technology sounds impressive to you, you’ll probably be interested in the practicalities of owning an electric or hybrid car. Does it cost more? Where can electric cars be charged? What are hybrids like for day-to-day driving? There are a lot of questions around how they differ to the cars we’re used to and rely on.
The current landscape of petrol, diesel & alternatives
It’ll be no surprise the market is still dominated by petrol and diesel cars. In 2017, according to the RAC Foundation, 95% of new car registrations were petrol and diesel. Add in hybrids which also use a petrol or diesel engine, and the figure rise to 99.5%.
The alternatively-fuelled market share, which includes hybrid electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, battery electric vehicles and fuel cell electric vehicles, reached a high of 4.7% in 2017.
New Car Registrations in 2017
One of the biggest changes in recent years is the declining sales of diesel cars – they used to dominate the market with over 50% of sales in 2014. Back in the 2000s, the government changed road tax to a CO2-favoured system. It benefitted diesel cars, as they generally emit less CO2 than petrol cars, leading to people buying more of them.
The recent decline is largely due to a bit of bad press – exaggerated in no small part by the Volkswagen scandal – about the air pollution caused by diesel engines. It turns out that focusing on CO2 emissions failed to take into account other impacts, including the release of particulate matter (PM) and the following nitrogen oxides (NOₓ):
Nitrogen Dioxide (NO₂)
Greenhouse Gas Nitrous Oxide (N₂O)
Nitric Oxide (NO)
For consumers who believed diesel cars weren’t just a way of cutting your car tax, but the better choice for the environment, it was frustrating.
The car industry responded with a campaign launched in March 2015 by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), seeking to “challenge the increasing demonisation of diesel” vehicles. They promoted the credentials of the new Europe-wide Euro-6 standards, which came into force in September 2015, and limited NOx emissions from new diesel cars to 80mg/km – a figure halved compared with the previous standard, Euro 5.
But the push for further improvements continues as the car industry juggles improvements to petrol and diesel engines along with developing new electric and hybrid offerings. The landscape is ever-evolving. As consumers, we’re responding well to the introduction of alternatives across Europe.
Plug-In Car Registrations First Half 2018
Commitments from car makers
With the tide turning in favour of more environmentally-friendly ways to travel, it’s in the interests of car makers to commit to bringing out more electric and hybrid options. It’s something most – if not all – manufacturers are investing in heavily.
Here’s just a few examples:
Tesla, the company which focuses its entire business on battery-powered cars, has started selling its first ‘budget’ electric car: the Tesla 3.
In 2018, Ford announced big plans to offer 13 new EVs – including hybrids – within the next five years. Perhaps the most interesting is an electric SUV with a 300-mile range per charge.
Jaguar Land Rover
Audi has promised 30% of its sales will be partially or fully electric cars by 2025, including a sporty car they’re calling the ID by 2020.
Volkswagen, arguably the car maker with the most to prove after the emissions scandal, announced its plans to bring out 30 battery-powered electric cars by 2025. It’s vowed to create electric versions of 300 of its models by 2030.
Daimler, who own Mercedes-Benz, recently accelerated its efforts in electric technology and plans to have 10 EVs released by 2022.
Proving that it’s not just traditional car makers interested in the potential growth, Dyson is making its first electric car, the Dyson EV, starting manufacture in Singapore from 2021.
There’s also certain requirements for car makers to meet in different countries. In July 2018, the UK released its ‘Road to Zero’ plan to reduce vehicle emissions. Part of this was a pledge that half of all new car sales will be hybrid or electric by 2030. These cars must qualify as ultra-low emission, which is defined by the government as a vehicle which emits less than 50g of carbon per kilometre travelled. The goal is to end the sales of what they call “conventional” petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040.
Across the world, it’s positive to see many countries working towards reducing – or eliminating – the reliance on fuels. Different countries have varying timelines.
Plans to end sales of petrol and diesel cars by 2026. The country has an impressive record with alternatively-fuelled cars so far, with almost 40% of newly-registered cars being hybrid, electric or hydrogen in 2017.
Plans to end sales of petrol and diesel cars by 2030.
Plans to phase out petrol and diesel cars by 2032.
Plans to end sales of petrol and diesel cars by 2040 – similar to British plans.
Chancellor Angela Merkel hinted it’s only a matter of time before the country follows suit with the above. “I cannot name an exact year yet,” she said, “but the approach is right, because if we quickly invest in more charging infrastructure and technology for electric cars, a general changeover will be structurally possible.”
Incentives for buying electric or hybrid cars
It’s not just car manufacturers backing electric and hybrid technology. The UK Government believe it’s the future too, and have been making efforts to ensure it’s easier – and more affordable – for us to invest in alternatively-fuelled cars. There are a number of incentives to encourage people to see electric and hybrid cars as a viable option.
The UK Plug-In Car Grant
You can get a discount of up to £3,500 on the price of new low-emission vehicles through a government grant. The discount is automatically applied by car dealers, so you don’t have to do anything. It works as follows:
For electric vehicles with CO2 emissions of less than 50g/km and the ability to travel at least 112km (70 miles) without any emissions at all, the grant pays 35% of the purchase price (up £3,500). This includes the Kia Soul EV (see above) and Renault ZOE.
For vans with CO2 emissions of less than 75g/km and the ability to travel at least 16km (10 miles) without any emissions at all, the grant pays 20% of the purchase price (up to £8,000). This includes the Citroen Berlingo, Mitsubishi Outlander Commercial and Renault Master ZE (see above).
There are also discounts on motorcycles, mopeds and taxis. For more information, including a complete list of all cars, see GOV.uk.
All the cars that currently qualify tend to be fully electric. A plug-in hybrid could technically produce CO2 emissions lower than 50g/km and be capable of travelling for 70 miles on electric power, but the technology isn’t that advanced yet.
The idea of the grant is to provide a cash incentive and encourage more people to buy cars that’ll help the efforts to reduce emission and improve air quality. When this grant was first released, it also applied to hybrid cars and had a greater maximum discount, but there was a concern over whether buyers just wanted to save money initially, but then not use the hybrid element to cut down on emissions.
Even with the changes to the scheme, there continues to be an increase in the number of electric and hybrid cars both for sale, and being sold. The government has confirmed it’ll remain in place until at least 2020.
The Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme (EVHS)
Although you can charge most electric cars through the existing sockets in your home, it’s much slower than a specialised chargepoint. It’s another cost to factor into the price of getting an electric or plug-in hybrid car. As such, the government provides funding of up to 75% towards the cost of installing electric vehicle charge points in homes across the UK – including for cars which no longer qualify for the plug-in grant.
The government isn’t running its own scrappage scheme, but money is available to local councils through the £220m Clean Air Fund if they would like to run their own.
What’s more exciting, though, is the manufacturer-led scrappage schemes aimed at helping people with older vehicles who want to upgrade to a cleaner car. You can knock thousands off the price of an electric or hybrid car – usually more than your car might be worth if you sold it second-hand.
And the uptake has been great, according to manufacturers. For example, a Lexus spokesman told The Press Association:
“Around 60% of our retail sales in October and November [in 2017] saw customers taking advantage of our ‘Make The Switch’ offers on Lexus self-charging hybrid vehicles.”
Choosing the right car
If you’re interested in an electric or hybrid car, that’s great news. Knowing where to go next, though, can be difficult. To choose a car that’s going to be right for you, think about the following things.
What type of journeys you do regularly.
If your typical journeys are short, then fully electric cars would be ideal. That’s because, although range has improved drastically on EVs over time, they are generally limited to around 60-70 miles before needing another charge. To compare, plug-in hybrids typically have a 30-40 electric power range, before falling back on the fuel tank. This could provide an extra 200-300 miles. The electric Tesla Model S is an exception, though, travelling over 150 miles between charges. Expect further improvements to available models.
How much space you need.
Choosing a new alternatively-fueled car is similar to any other car purchases you’ve made before. You’ve got to think about how many people you’ll be likely to transport, and what other storage needs you’ll have. A more environmentally-friendly choice of car still needs to deliver on the essentials you need. With the choice available now, there’s no need to compromise on the practical demands of modern day driving.
Whether you have off-road parking.
If you want an electric or plug-in hybrid, you’ll need somewhere to charge it. For some homes, this will be a problem, as there might not be space off-road.
How important other features are.
Specs can make a huge difference to car ownership. Most features are designed to make your life easier, or more comfortable. Different cars, or models, will vary what they offer. Think about extras like sat-nav, parking sensors, entertainment systems, and leather seats, as well as safety features such as blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning and automatic emergency braking.
Where you regularly drive.
Think about where you normally go. Do you spend most of your time driving around town or city centres? Your needs will be different than if you live and work remotely, spending more of your time on quiet, but potentially damaged, roads. It could affect the size of car and fuel type you’d need, as well as features you prioritise.
How much you want to reduce your carbon footprint by.
The environmental benefits you can expect vary between different cars. Electric cars are the most accessible option for the greatest reductions in emissions currently, but some people find hybrids more practical.
What your budget is.
Most of us will be somewhat restricted by our budget. There are amazing finance arrangements available nowadays, but it’s important to start with a price you want to pay. This might influence whether you’re looking for a new or used car. Both have benefits:
Peace of mind from the manufacturer’s warranty (at least three years)
Choose and modify the spec which suits your needs
Used cars are cheaper, and the original owner will have taken the initial hit of depreciation
Approved used cars often come with added assurances from manufacturers, as well as after sales care from car deals
How much your running costs will be.
Luckily, this isn’t too much of problem with new electric cars because you’ll pay nothing on road tax for zero-emission models. If you have a new hybrid, you’ll get £10 off the annual tax. There are other costs to think about, though, but they can be much lower than petrol or diesel cars, as shown with these two electric cars:
Renault Zoe Q90 i-Signature
Renault Zoe Q90 i-Signature
KIA e-Niro First Edition
KIA e-Niro First Edition
Source: Zap Map
Once you’ve got a shortlist of cars you like, make sure you take them on a test drive. It’s the perfect chance to get the feel for different models, and how they compare on the road.
Can you drive in a more environmentally-friendly way?
If you don’t need a new car just yet, there are things you can do to minimise the impact of driving, including:
Avoiding sharp acceleration and heavy braking
Only transport heavier items when you need to
Keep up to date with services and MOTs to maintain your car well
Switch off your engine if you’re in stationary traffic
Plan your route to minimise the time you’re stuck in congestion
Car share when possible