Plug-in hybrid cars are steadily rising in popularity. According to published sales figures in early 2020, sales of plug-in hybrids have risen by 111.1% year on year and now represent 3.2% of the UK automotive market.
What is a plug-in hybrid car?
If you're looking for a new car that can save money on fuel and other costs like tax and ULEZ charges, then a plug-in hybrid car might be the perfect choice for you.
Plug-in hybrids are environmentally friendly cars that can substantially reduce carbon emissions by giving you the choice to switch to electric driving and reducing your consumption of fossil fuels.
A plug-in hybrid car, also known as PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle), is a practical compromise between petrol and diesel engines and electric motors. Examples of PHEVs on the market are the Toyota Prius Prime or the BMW 330e.
How does a plug-in differ to other types of hybrid cars?
Plug-in hybrid Cars (PHEV):
Plug-in hybrids require battery charging like an electric car would do - hence the 'plug-in' part. A primary difference in the hybrid vs plug-in hybrid conversation is that a standard hybrid model will use the engine to charge the battery instead of static charging.
A plug-in hybrid has both a petrol engine as well as an electric motor but also a charging port to plug into the wall or a charging station. They have a larger battery than traditional hybrids, which allows you to drive on only electric power for up to 30 miles before switching to a petrol engine.
Hybrid Cars (HEV):
A car that uses both a traditional fuel engine and an electric motor to drive the vehicle. Sometimes referred to as HEV (Hybrid Electric Vehicle), examples of these electric vehicles include the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight as well as the KIA Niro.
Electric Cars (EV):
These vehicles, known as EV, use only electricity to power the vehicle. They, therefore, must be plugged into a charging station or a home wall plug to recharge. Typical examples are the EVs in the entire Tesla catalogue.
What are the pros and cons of buying a plug-in hybrid car?
With low running costs and high levels of reliability, PHEVs are also hugely popular on the used car market, though still relatively few are available to buy secondhand.
Let’s look at what makes them so desirable:
Reasons to buy a plug-in hybrid car
Electric power for more than 20 miles
If you live in a city with easy access to charging facilities and your commute to work is less than 30 miles, a plug-in hybrid could dramatically reduce your fuel costs. This is because you would be doing all your driving using electricity only.
Cheap to run
One of the main benefits of a plug-in hybrid car is how economical they are when it comes to fuel consumption. Using up to 30% less fuel per mile than regular fuel cars, they can you a lot of money.
Plug-in hybrid cars have a lower carbon footprint than ordinary cars. Toyota even states that their hybrid cars can be up to 80% cleaner than regular cars.
The majority of plug-in hybrid models in the real world carry a zero-emission mode, which is ideal for short trips like school runs and short commutes. During this mode, the car delivers a complete electric drive, which saves on fuel and cuts all CO2 emissions.
Plug-in hybrids can be more reliable than petrol or diesel cars. The engine doesn’t keep running when you’re driving slowly or in urban settings, which results in a lot less wear and tear.
Low company car tax
Company car tax is levied according to the individual car’s CO2 emissions. This means that the lower the CO2 emissions, the lower the tax liability.
Plug-in hybrid cars have lower tailpipe CO2, because of their fuel economy. Therefore, company car tax for these vehicles is normally lower than regular cars. CO2 levels can reduce by around 20%-25%, so hybrid cars of all kinds have lower tax bands.
Hold their value well
Though they can be more expensive to buy than petrol or diesel cars, plug-in hybrid cars have a much higher resale value. They are in high demand, which means you are likely to regain more of your money if you decide to sell your hybrid than if you were selling a second-hand petrol or diesel car.
Cons of Plug-in Hybrids
Higher price out of the showroom
Plug-in models, as well as regular hybrid variants of popular cars, can be a lot more expensive out of the gate than their petrol or diesel equivalents. However, what you spend in the acquisition, you could save in running and maintenance costs.
The plug-in hybrid output is nowhere near fuel cars’ output. Plug-ins are built to maximise efficiency, so power is not a reason to buy a plug-in hybrid car. There are exceptions of course, such as a Tesla which can go from 0-60 in up to 3 seconds, however, this can sacrifice efficiency.
Less impressive mileage on motorways
If you consider motorway speeds, plug-in hybrids lose some of their fuel economy advantages, since braking is rarely necessary and wind resistance is more of a factor.
Plug-in hybrid cars generally cost more to repair. Not all repair centres have the right equipment and knowledge to fix this type of car, so you may have to use a specialist repair centre which will cost more.
Costly battery replacement
Replacing the battery on a plug-in hybrid can be very expensive. However, these batteries are built to last and are generally under warranty for at least 100,000 miles.
Top Plug-in Hybrids for 2020
This car is top for value as a plug-in hybrid because it behaves pretty much like a regular car. The 341-litre boot is not far off from the size of an average family hatchback, and adults can comfortably travel in the back seats.
Its electric range is about 26 miles but the engine usually automatically switches to fuel in some situations like driving uphill or slow driving, regardless of the charge status of the battery. This is thanks to the car's software, which is built to calculate the most efficient way to respond to various driving situations, to consistently create a smooth and efficient drive.
Toyota Prius Plug-in
The Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid is the best plug-in hybrid car if you are looking for fuel economy.
It is very economical in both city settings and longer journeys when electric assistance can be limited. The Toyota Prius battery has twice the capacity of previous models, giving it an impressive official electric range of 34 miles.
Such a quiet and comfortable drive, with an electric range similar to the Ioniq. The only drawback of the Prius Plug-in is the small 191-litre boot.
Is the petrol and diesel ban affecting plug-in hybrid cars?
As part of the UK's Clean Air Strategy, the Government had previously said it would ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040. Hybrid cars, which have both petrol or diesel engines and an electric motor, are excluded from the ban.
Protecting your Hybrid Car
Plug-in hybrid vehicles, like any modern and desirable car, are in high demand in the stolen parts markets both in the UK and abroad. Hybrid cars are targeted by thieves for their catalytic converters because they are generally in better condition than in petrol and diesel cars. As a result of lower emissions in a hybrid, the precious metal components of the catalytic converters remain in better condition, which makes them extremely valuable to sell.
Not all plug-in hybrids have this problem though, as clever manufactures found ways to mount the catalytic converter within the engine bay, which makes it difficult and risky to steal. Your car dealer will be able to tell you if the hybrid you are interested in has this feature.
How to prevent catalytic converter theft
Here are some general tips on how to improve the security of a plug-in hybrid car:
Park your car in a safe spot
If you have the facility, parking your car in a garage overnight is the best option, especially if it is covered by your house alarm.
A well lit and overlooked parking spot is also a great way to avoid catalytic converters being stolen, the more visible the car, the better the deterrent.
If it is not possible to park in your garage or on a gated drive, try to park near an area with high foot traffic. Thieves don’t want to attract attention, and whilst it doesn’t take long to steal a catalytic converter, it’s certainly not a quiet job.
CCTV is very effective as thieves will need time to remove the converters and don’t want to be caught on camera. If you don’t want to shell out on a whole home security system, you can get fake cameras too which will still deter thieves to a point. Bear in mind they obviously won’t be able to help if indeed a crime is committed on your property.
Install a vehicle tracker system
Installing a vehicle tracker ensures that if your car is stolen, it can be tracked and traced to help the police to retrieve it. Car trackers typically use GPS technology to emit a signal that can be tracked from satellites, however, criminals have developed GPS jamming technology which can render your GPS tracker useless.
Tracker is the UK’s Leading Vehicle Tracker and Stolen Vehicle Recovery Experts
Tracker is the only vehicle tracking and recovery expert in the UK to offer superior VHF tracking technology, which cannot be jammed as it does not use GPS. VHF means your car will be visible to the police even if it is underground, in a container or in a garage - three popular storage spots for stolen cars whilst thieves wait for the chase to die down.
Tracker has a unique relationship with UK Police Forces, with Tracker systems in over 2000 police cars and over 20 police helicopters, meaning quicker response times. Tracker also overlooks most major UK ports to prevent thieves from shipping your car off to international buyers.
The quicker your vehicle is found, the quicker your insurance claim can be resolved, and disruption to your life can be minimised during an awful situation.