Choosing the right vehicle technology for you.
You have probably heard a lot about electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles but what are the actual facts?
You might be seriously considering this technology as your next vehicle but before ordering one you must make absolutely sure it will meet your lifestyle requirements and, where applicable, ensure that it does not impact your company.
Not all drivers will find owning one to be beneficial. Drivers who regularly do lower business miles operating in an urban environment are the ideal target as well as business users who have shorter drive cycles or are able to charge their vehicle during the day.
Pure electric vehicles are powered solely by on-board batteries. The new generation of electric cars have a range typically of 120 to 180 miles on a full charge; some of the premium electric vehicles will achieve around 250 miles.
The vehicles must pass the stringent safety testing which applies to all cars, and in terms of overall performance they will be suitable for normal use including motorway driving. But an electric car must fit your mileage profile – if you need to carry out regular long journeys this may not suit your needs. You may wish to consider a range extender or plug in hybrid.
Consider those times when you may need to travel further, particularly when you go away on holiday. Please also bear in mind that the extra weight of passengers and luggage will affect the range considerably. As well as driving in winter conditions when the heating and light is required.
You must have an appropriate electric point within immediate range of the car for charging purposes and you must never use an extension lead.
You need to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines in respect of charging. If you don’t, you may be liable for costs related to any failure.
Plug-in hybrids combine petrol or diesel engines with a battery and electric motor.
They can also be plugged into mains electricity to provide a much longer driving range on electric-only power.
The batteries have a greater storage capacity than an existing hybrid, making it possible to drive considerably further using only the electric motor, in our experience between 15 to 30 miles depending on the roads and driving conditions.
For most commuting and domestic journeys it is possible to drive in the electric mode with zero exhaust emissions.
As well as the green advantages company car drivers can benefit from Benefit in Kind advantages over the standard combustion engine equivalents, not only can you potentially save on tax there is also the potential reduction in fuel costs for private short journeys.
However, there are various points to consider when thinking about owning a vehicle like this - such as MPG, driving style and being disciplined to plug it in to get maximum advantage from the technology.
At Arval we have found the real life MPG for plug-in hybrids over longer journeys can be unrealistic compared to the manufacturer quoted amount.
There is a general acceptance that real life driving mpg compared to manufactures’ published mpg figures in convention petrol & diesel engines are, on average, 25% a drift.
In our experience the plug-in hybrids mpg performance has varied between models and we have experienced up to a 75% reduction in manufacturers stated mpg figure, this is heavily dependent on the types of roads, weather conditions and driving styles.
Conversely where these vehicles are used for short urban trips they will not use any petrol or diesel so will achieve the stated figures.
The key here is that you shouldn’t drive a plug-in hybrid like you drive a normal car. Drivers choosing these vehicles need to amend their behaviour to get the most out of them.
Drivers need to read the road ahead and apply less harsh braking and acceleration in order to get the best out of the vehicle.
They also need to know how to use the regeneration braking technology from the vehicle and where possible pre-condition, heating & cooling the vehicle, while it’s plugged into the mains electric.
It sounds simple but it’s a great benefit to know what all the buttons in the vehicle mean and when they should be used, take time to learn and understand the vehicle.
In recent years many business drivers have opted for this technology as the manufacturers have been able to reduce the CO2 emissions of these vehicles which have reduced the drivers benefit in kind costs. However compared to petrol vehicles with the same CO2 rating there is a premium added to the taxable percentage of P11D value, currently 3%, which increases the benefit in kind payable by the driver and makes them more expensive than their petrol equivalents. Diesel engines can return higher MPG performance and tend to be one of the most efficient engines.
However, they generally have higher air pollution such as Oxides of Nitrogen (NOx), this is becoming more of a problem in urban areas and a focus for local authorities who are trying to tackle air quality issues.
This type of technology is best suited to drivers who regularly do higher mileage trips on faster roads such as motorways.
Petrol engines are generally cleaner than diesels engines which are having an impact on local air quality such as Oxides of Nitrogen (NOx) which can contribute towards health problems. MPG of these petrol engines is getting better but are still less efficient that diesel engines. However, smaller petrol engines can struggle to achieve manufacturer stated mpg figures if used regularly on motorways.
This technology is ideally suited to drivers who do lower mileage in urban environments who do not have access to an electric charging point.