With new petrol and diesel cars set to be banned from sale in 2030, there’s no doubting that the Government intends for the future of motoring to be electric.
But the combustion engine won’t be completely outlawed for passenger cars at the end of the decade; some hybrid models will remain on sale until 2035, under the green revolution proposed by Boris Johnson.
Should you consider buying one instead of a 100 per cent electric model?
Electric car expert Fiona Howarth says hybrids have already run their course, and motorists should steer clear of them, for their own and the environment’s sake…
Only hybrid vehicles that can ‘drive a significant distance without emitting carbon’ will remain in showrooms until the middle of next decade, the Government has said.
However, since making the statement in 2020 as part of its ‘Green Industrial Revolution’, minsters are still yet to outline the exact parameters for which hybrid models qualify to remain on sale.
It is widely expected that only plug-in hybrid models will be eligible, though dependent on how far they can travel in pure electric mode before the petrol engine needs to kick into gear.
It means some hybrids will remain relevant for at least another 13 years. Though there has been some debate about whether motorists should buy one, with studies questioning the economical benefits and perceived lower running costs quoted by their makers.
Fiona – who is chief executive at Octopus Electric Vehicles – has given her verdict on whether a hybrid car is the right choice for drivers in 2022 and beyond…
Fiona Howarth is an electric car expert and the CEO of Octopus Electric Vehicles – the EV-leasing arm of the green energy provider
It’s now a quarter of a century since Toyota got the green car movement on the road by launching the world’s first mass-produced hybrid.
The Toyota Prius quickly became known as the car of choice for the eco-conscious.
Celebrities including Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts and Leo DiCaprio burnished their green credentials by zipping about in their compact hybrids.
Traditional hybrids such as the early Prius were soon joined by other variations, including plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). These have exploded in popularity in recent years, with manufacturers touting them as the more sustainable hybrid option.
But these vehicles – which typically combine electric motors with traditional diesel or petrol engines – are no longer the poster child of the green car revolution.
With over 65 fully electric vehicles available from over 25 different brands, drivers now have a huge, and rapidly growing range of affordable EVs to choose from, and an infrastructure that makes them even more convenient for everyday use.
It’s time for hybrids to pull over. Until they do, they may actually be making things worse.
Plug-in hybrids have become the most popular type of hybrid car – though studies suggest they’re not very green
A stepping stone to pure EVs or time to step off?
Hybrids have long been a stepping stone for drivers on their journey to using full electric vehicles, and for good reason.
They have been around long enough for people to feel familiar with them, and their similarity to traditional vehicle technology helps make it feel like a small step rather than a leap into the unknown.
But a stone isn’t a stepping stone until you step off it – which is what many drivers are now doing as EVs and their charging network matures, drivers are fully embracing all that EVs have to offer.
To a large extent, hybrids represent the worst of both worlds, hampered by many of the downsides of old school cars and delivering few of the upsides of EVs.
No wonder Greenpeace has described them as ‘the car industry’s wolf in sheep’s clothing’.
More hindrance than help
While many drivers switched to hybrids for environmental reasons, the case for them as a green choice is somewhat flimsy.
For example, research shows that their actual environmental impact is up to four times higher than their test results suggest.
Another study found that they can produce up to 70 per cent of the emissions of a normal diesel or petrol car and create 15 per cent more emissions during manufacture than battery electric vehicles.
By acting as a stepping stone they also slow the transition to greater usage of EVs, soaking up research and development spending by manufacturers that could instead have been directed towards the cleaner option.
Fortunately, the rapid growth and evolution of pure EVs means that not only are hybrids no longer needed, but slowing demand means that development of hybrid technology has effectively stalled.
Manufacturers are acting accordingly. Mercedes Benz, for example, announced in June last year that ‘investments into combustion engines and plug-in hybrid technologies will drop by 80 per cent between 2019 and 2026’.
And with the Government set to ban hybrid sales entirely from 2035, five years after doing the same for new petrol and diesel vehicles, we are soon going fully electric.
Mercedes has confirmed it is pulling back investments into combustion engines and plug-in hybrid technologies by 80% between 2019 and 2026
EVs accounted for more UK car registrations in 2021 than in the previous five years combined.
There are now around 400,000 EVs on UK roads, nearly half of which were bought in 2021.
The trend continues to accelerate in 2022, with March alone seeing more EVs bought than in the whole of 2019.
There are good reasons for this.
The barriers to more people swapping their gas guzzlers for EVs are being chipped away one by one. Ongoing improvements to technology and infrastructure mean it’s getting easier all the time to keep your EV charged.
Drivers can now choose from a huge selection of EVs that travel on average 215 miles on a single charge, much more than the 20 miles a day that the average motorist tots up.
While there is more work to be done, charging infrastructure is growing rapidly, with the number of public chargers in the UK doubling over the past two years.
From high speed chargers on motorways for convenience on longer journeys, to free charging at your local supermarket, it’s getting easier and easier to top up while out and about – knocking on the head fears of ‘range anxiety’.
As fuel prices continue to reach new highs, the low cost of charging an EV at home becomes more and more attractive.
Specific EV tariffs also allow customers to benefit from extra cheap charging overnight when there is less pressure on the energy grid.
With most EV drivers charging their car much as they do their phone – simply plugging in when they’re not using it – smart tariffs can save drivers up to 90% compared to their old petrol or diesel fuel bill.
Some issues are still being addressed, of course. While reduced fuel and maintenance costs mean the lifetime cost of owning an EV is much lower than other vehicles, upfront cost remains a significant barrier for some drivers.
They are becoming more affordable, however, BloombergNEF estimates that price parity will be reached in Europe in 2027.
Low cost leases, little maintenance and low cost fuel all make it cheaper over the life of the car already.
However, a big incentive is provided by workplace-based incentives such as very low company car tax rates for EVs, and the opportunity to get as a benefit via a salary sacrifice scheme – like Cycle-to-Work but for clean cars, which can save you up to 40 per cent on your car costs.
Sales figures show how quickly demand for EVs is rising, and many more people are thinking about making the move, with soaring fuel prices and increased environmental awareness a big influence.
They might once have considered hybrids as a stepping stone to EVs. But why settle for less?
If 2021 saw EVs finally become truly visible on UK roads, 2022 may well be the year they reach top gear as more Britons decide it’s time to ditch hybrids and traditional cars for good.
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