Best Electric Vehicles and Hybrid Cars
With the environment in mind, many car-buyers are looking at eco-friendlier options when considering their next car purchase. There are more and more options coming on to the market as manufacturers turn their attention to the growing demand and global necessity to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. With a wealth of options, the choice is also becoming more complex as new technologies emerge and compete for your green pound.
Hybrids are becoming increasingly popular in the UK. They offer a number of benefits including very low or non-existent road tax, great fuel economy and a smooth electrical ride. Hybrids combine a petrol or diesel engine with an electric motor. There are various types of hybrid technology used by the car makers. The Toyota Yaris uses an electric motor to aid the traditional engine – supplying greater power when necessary and recovering energy from braking when it’s not.
The Toyota Prius goes a step further and allows electrical-only running for short periods. These cars can be purchased as a ‘plug-in’ hybrid which allows larger batteries to be charged from the mains to provide 20 to 30 mins of electric-only drive.
A further variant, the BMW i3 Range Extender uses the combustion engine as a generator to charge batteries which then power the car’s electric motor. Unlike the Toyotas above, the petrol engine does not supply power to the wheels. This provides the benefits of an electric car but limits the range issues that are inherent with some Electric Vehicles (EVs).
Hybrids offer incredible economy figures – the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV claims over 140mpg, but these tests are run over a very short distance which greatly benefits hybrid cars’ performance figures. Buyers may be disappointed when their vehicle fails to deliver 140mpg on a long drive with actual performance below 40mpg. However, a plug-in hybrid that generally only travels distances of 20-30 miles may go weeks without using any fuel at all, being maintained by mains charging each night.
Hybrids are ideal for those people who do most of their motoring in town, where the most can be made of regenerative breaking and the limited range. Some hybrids are exempt from the congestion charge, making them very popular amongst Londoners. Those people who do lots of long-distance journeys are likely to be best served by a traditional diesel, as they offer superior economy on longer drives.
Bloomberg analysts state that if 35% of global new car sales (41m a year) were EVs (as predicted by 2040) that it would result in a cut in global oil consumption by 14%. The Committee on Climate states that the UK needs 60% of new cars and vans to be electric by 2030 to meet our 2050 climate-change targets.
Until 2017 buyers will be able to get a 35% rebate on the cost of hybrid and electric vehicles in the UK. There was a 65% increase in 2015 EV sales volumes in comparison to the previous year. A recent Government-backed forecast predicts that by 2027, electric cars will make up over 50% of all new cars sold in the UK.
It's almost 20 years since Toyota first introduced the Prius, and recently the Tesla Model X has been getting a lot of attention, but its price point at £72,280 is prohibitive for most people. Volkswagen plan to launch 30 EV models by 2035 and Zipcar, the car-sharing club, have just introduced 50 Volkswagen Golf GTE plug-in hybrid vehicles around London. Ecotricity has invested in a network of charging points, whilst Tesla has its own network of Superchargers. Charging points can be checked on evhighwaystatus.co.uk or zap-map.com.
The Nissan Leaf was the first mainstream electric car to be sold in the UK. It has quirky styling and a futuristic, hi-tech interior which perhaps is only now surpassed by the BMW i3. It has a good range at 124 miles, but this range can be hard to achieve. It takes eight hours to recharge using a conventional 3-pin plug. It has great boot-space at 370 litres and plenty of room for four passengers. It has good pace from a standing start and is virtually silent when on the move.
The Ford Focus Electric hatchback is a lot more fun to drive than the Nissan Leaf. It’s Ford’s first purely electric production model. It has a range of 100 miles on a full charge. The car’s batteries eat into the boot space and also affect the car’s handling. There are purpose-built rivals such as the BMW i3 and Renault Zoe that have better range and handling.
The Volkswagen e-up! is significantly costlier than the standard Volkswagen up! It’s based on the same car but with purely electrical power rather than petrol. Its dimensions make it perfect for the city, whilst its electric motor means that it’s exempt from the London Congestion Charge. It’s got good pace away from traffic lights and the 90-mile range allows you to travel all over the city.
The Kia Soul EV is very roomy on the inside, offers passengers plenty of headroom and a more upmarket feel than many of its rivals. The ride comfort is good and smooth but the steering can be a little light leaving you feeling disconnected from the drive. But it does drive well with good grip and minimal lean for a taller car.
The Renault Twizy hatch-back is a real head-turner. It has space for only two-people with one sitting behind the other. It has thin bars instead of full doors and looks like a moon-buggy! It’s not really suitable for driving in all weathers and you’ll need the same warm waterproof clothing as a motorbike rider. It’s great fun to drive and takes three hours from a three-pin plug, giving you enough power for between 30 and 50 miles.
The Citroen C-Zero micro car is short and narrow which is great for city streets and parking. Its fundamentally the same as the Mitsubishi i-MiEV and Peugeot iOn. It has a good driving position for visibility with a large windscreen. The electric motor makes it snappy off the mark and there’s no gear change required with its automatic transmission.
The Renault Zoe is one of the cheaper EVs on the market despite the monthly rental charge for batteries. Its slightly larger than the Renault Clio, on which it is based, and has a good-sized boot at 338 litres. It is virtually silent when running and very easy to drive as an automatic. Stopping can be a little jerky due to the regenerative braking system. It has a short range of 100 miles but Renault throws in a free-home-charger to charge the car faster than a standard socket.
There are only a few subtle changes between the Volkswagen e-Golf and the normal Volkswagen Golf. It looks familiar on the inside too and most people would not realise that it’s solely powered by electricity. It’s quick off the mark and almost feels exactly the same as the conventional vehicle to drive. Passenger space remains unchanged from a regular Golf but boot space is reduced slightly from 380 litres to 341 litres. The range is perhaps the main drawback, clocking in at only 115 miles, which somehow seems a little meagre for a Golf.
With the prospects of heavier taxes on emissions, a growing network of charge points for electric cars and the technology become more affordable, we can expect to see many more electric cars on the road in future.