Demand for alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) has increased spectacularly over the last few years.
If you’re one of the latest motorists to gain an interest in getting an alternative fuel car, then your options in all probability are either a hybrid car or a fully-electric car.
Both appeal to new car buyers who want low running costs, since they emit little to zero CO2 and, in the case of hybrids, boast incredibly high official fuel economy figures.
A lot of alternative fuel vehicles can also qualify for a Government-supported Plug-in vehicle grant, which can reduce a vehicle’s purchase price from anywhere between £2,500 to £4,500.
The variety of alternative fuel vehicles available nowadays is large, but you may not be clear on which type suits you best. In this guide we’ll explain what to expect from the two most popular types of alternative fuel vehicles.
Electric cars (also known as EVs – short for electric vehicles) are driven purely by electric energy, meaning no CO2 is emitted. At least one motor is used to drive the front or rear wheels (or possibly even both) and this is charged by an on-board battery pack.
Electric cars are incredibly quiet to drive and cheap to run too. The simplicity of the powertrain means smooth power distribution, instant torque and cheap maintenance costs as well. Compared to hybrids or conventional powered cars, however, the travel range of electric cars is much shorter, although they have improved in this regard in recent years.
In order to ‘refuel’ an electric car, a suitable plug socket needs to be used. How long it takes to fully recharge depends on the type of plug socket and the car itself. The recharge time could take anywhere between three and eight hours using a standard charge plug. Certain ‘fast chargers’ can recharge 80 per cent of certain electric cars in around just 30 minutes.
In the world of cars, a hybrid generally refers to vehicles which are driven by more than one source of power. This typically means a conventional petrol or diesel engine is combined with an electric motor to drive the car.
Petrol-electric powertrains are the most commonly used for hybrid cars. A hybrid car can run both power sources simultaneously for maximum power or alternatively use just the electric motor for a very limited number of miles.
Hybrid cars can not only boost fuel economy figures in spectacular fashion, but also record low figures for CO2 emissions, so low in fact that virtually all hybrids qualify for free Vehicle Excise Duty.
Some hybrid cars will use the petrol or diesel engine to drive one pair of wheels, while the electric motor will drive the other pair, meaning the car has four-wheel-drive capabilities.
There are different variants of hybrid that exist in today’s car market. For instance, there are plug-in hybrids, which can have their battery pack recharged via an electrical socket, instead of just relying on the engine for recharging like a normal hybrid.
Is one better than the other?
Which type of alternative fuel vehicle suits you best really depend on several factors, including where you live, where you plan to drive and how far you’re planning to travel.
If you expect to be making regular commutes within town, and there are a decent number of public charging points nearby, then an electric vehicle can fit incredibly well into your lifestyle.
If you are expecting to make regular long-distance trips in your new car instead, then a hybrid is probably more suited. Having a petrol or diesel engine aiding the electric motor is particularly handy for longer trips and low running costs remain achievable.