IAIN ROBERTSON 

New rules come into effect on 9th November 2018 that affect current and potential owners of plug-in hybrid motorcars, states Iain Robertson, who have benefitted from government grants since 2011 that have aided the uptake rate positively.

Urged by the EU to incentivise new car owners acquiring ultra-low and zero exhaust emissions cars, a Plug-in Car Grant (PiCG) was introduced over seven years ago. Intended as a means for government to manage its low emissions promise and to avoid substantial EU fines for missing its pre-set pollution targets, while almost 170,000 ULEVs (ultra-low emissions vehicles) have found operators, over the past decade predominantly in the business sector, they are mostly of the plug-in hybrid type (68% of the total), which emit less than 50g/km CO2 and possess an EV range of between 10 and 70-miles.

The grant level was originally £4,500 for ULEVs, although the sum had reduced to £2,500, with pure electric vehicles qualifying for a £3,500 grant, apparently reflecting the reducing costs of some of the latest models. It could be suggested that, in an era of ‘austerity’ (I apologise for the use of the word!), if those vehicle owners want to fly their ‘green’ flags, that they should not receive benefits. Yet, there still exists an argument in favour of encouraging the market.

BMW i3 6

While all government grants can have a temporary nature to them invariably, issued with scarcely three weeks’ notice the snap decision to cut them to motorists is myopic indeed. The alternative to a cleaner environment is for the nation to continue to be hit by immense EU fines for not achieving pre-agreed air quality targets. Of course, cars are not solely responsible and, just as diesel fuel should not have been demonised, neither should they, especially when the amounts of emissions from properties in built-up areas far outweigh the total number of vehicles in that vicinity.

 

Trying to cut costs

While both Honda and Toyota subsidised heavily the costs of their new hybrid Insight (by 50%) and Prius (by 25%) models at the turn of the Millennium, as more manufacturers have arrived in the arena, there seems to be less willingness to do so and the tipping-point of higher volumes versus retail prices has not been reached. In fact, most new ‘green’ cars tend to carry a hefty retail premium.

Although the following list is hardly exhaustive, with new ULEV models arriving on a regular basis, the following examples are available now (pure EVs highlighted in green and the solus fuel cell car in red, all others are hybrids):

Range Rover PHEV 10

  • Audi Q7 3.0TDi e-tron – 48g/km, 156.9mpg, 0-60mph in 6.2s, 143mph
  • BMW 225xe – 57g/km, 113mpg, 0-60mph in 6.4s, 126mph
  • BMW 530e – 49g/km, 128.4mpg, 0-60mph in 5.9s, 146mph
  • BMW 740e – 54g/km, 117.7mpg, 0-60mph in 5.1s, 155mph
  • BMW X5 40e – 78g/km, 83.1mpg, 0-60mph in 6.5s, 130mph
  • BMW i3 EV 0g/km, EV, 0-60mph in 7.0s, 93mph
  • BMW i3 RE – 13g/km, 470.8mpg, 0-60mph in 7.8s, 93mph
  • BMW i8 RE – 42g/km, 158.9mpg, 0-60mph in 4.1s, 155mph
  • Citroen C-Zero 0g/km, EV, 0-60mph in 15.6s, 81mph
  • Hyundai Ioniq EV 0g/km, EV, 0-60mph in 9.9s, 103mph
  • Hyundai Ioniq – 79g/km, 83mpg, 0-60mph in 10.2s, 114mph
  • Infiniti Q70 – 145g/km, 45.6mpg, 0-60mph in 5.0s, 155mph
  • Jaguar i-Pace0g/km, EV, 0-60mph 4.5s, 145mph
  • Kia Optima – 37g/km, 176.6mpg, 0-60mph in 8.8s, 119mph
  • Kia Soul 0g/km, EV, 0-60mph in 10.8s, 90mph
  • Kia Niro – 88g/km, 74.3mpg, 0-60mph in 10.6s, 115mph
  • Range Rover Sport P400e – 75g/km, 88.3mpg, 0-60mph in 6.0s, 137mph
  • Range Rover P400e – 75g/km, 91.1mpg 0-60mph in 6.1s, 137mph
  • Lexus CT – 101g/km, 64.2mpg, 0-60mph in 10.0s, 112mph
  • Lexus iS 300h – 101g/km, 65.7mpg, 0-60mph in 8.1s, 125mph
  • Lexus LS500h – 147g/km, 43.5mpg, 0-60mph in 5.1s, 155mph
  • Lexus RC 300h – 120g/km, 56.5mpg, 0-60mph in 8.3s, 118mph
  • Lexus LC 500h – 145g/km, 44.1mpg, 0-60mph in 4.7s, 155mph
  • Lexus NX 300h – 135g/km, 47.9mpg, 0-60mph in 8.9s, 112mph
  • Lexus RX 450h – 134g/km, 47.9mpg, 0-60mph in 7.4s, 124mph
  • Mercedes-Benz C350e – 52g/km, 134.5mpg, 0-60mph in 5.6s, 155mph
  • Mercedes-Benz C300h – 100g/km, 74.3mpg, 0-60mph in 6.1s, 152mph
  • Mercedes-Benz E350e – 49g/km, 134.5mpg, 0-60mph in 5.9s, 155mph
  • Mercedes-Benz GLE 500e – 78g/km, 85.6mpg, 0-60mph in 5.0s, 152mph
  • Mini 1.5 Cooper Countryman PHEV – 55g/km, 134.5mpg, 0-60mph in 6.5s, 123mph
  • Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV – 41g/km, 139mpg, 0-60mph in 10.2s, 106mph
  • Nissan Leaf 0g/km, EV, 0-60mph in 8.3s, 89mph
  • Peugeot Ion 0g/km, EV, 0-60mph in 15.6s, 81mph
  • Porsche Panamera 2.9e – 56g/km, 113mpg, 0-60mph in 4.3s, 172mph
  • Porsche Panamera 4.0e – 66g/km, 97.4mpg, 0-60mph in 3.1s, 192mph
  • Porsche Cayenne 3.0e – 72g/km, 88.3mpg, 0-60mph in 4.7s, 157mph
  • Renault Twizy 0g/km, EV, 0-40mph in 11.0s, 50mph
  • Renault Zoe 0g/km, EV, 0-60mph in 11.9s, 84mph
  • Renault Scenic 1.5dCih – 94g/km, 80.7mpg, 0-60mph in 12.6s, 112mph
  • smart fortwo EQ 0g/km, EV, 0-60mph in 11.2s, 81mph
  • smart forfour EQ 0g/km, EV, 0-60mph in 12.4s, 81mph
  • Suzuki Swift SHVS – 97g/km, 65.7mpg, 0-60mph in 10.3s, 121mph
  • Suzuki Ignis SHVS – 97g/km, 65.7mpg, 0-60mph in 11.1s, 106mph
  • Tesla Model S 0g/km, EV, 0-60mph in 2.3s, 155mph
  • Tesla Model X 0g/km, EV, 0-60mph in 2.6s, 155mph
  • Toyota Yaris 1.5h – 84g/km, 76.3mpg, 0-60mph in 11.5s, 103mph
  • Toyota Prius – 28g/km, 235mpg, 0-60mph in 10.8s, 101mph
  • Toyota C-HRh – 86g/km, 74.3mpg, 0-60mph in 10.7s, 105mph
  • Toyota RAV4h – 122g/km, 56.4mpg, 0-60mph in 8.1s, 112mph
  • Toyota Mirai HFC 0g/km, Fuel Cell, 0-60mph in 9.3s, 111mph
  • VW e-Up0g/km, EV, 0-60mph in 12.1s, 81mph
  • VW e-Golf0g/km, EV, 0-60mph in 9.3s, 93mph
  • VW Golf GTE – 38g/km, 166.2mpg, 0-60mph in 7.3s, 138mph
  • Volvo XC60h – 52g/km, 122.8mpg, 0-60mph in 5.2s, 140mph

 

If ever a case existed for the reinstatement of diesel as the most economical route for motorised transport, it is now, and many businesses and private individuals are holding back on acquisitions of new cars, until they can be sure that diesel is cleaner than before. Yet, in all cases, the hybrid cars carry the aforementioned price premium over their more conventional rivals, although their residual, or trade-in, values can often be markedly less. It is also noticeable that neither Ford, nor Vauxhall have hybrid, or EV, options, although PSA Group (Vauxhall’s owner) states that they are coming soon.

Suzuki Swift SHVS

Being ‘green’ is not always viable

The desire to wear a ‘clean and green’ halo needs to be offset against a blend of driving style (in order to get close to the WTLP maximum mileage potential), the ability to plug-in the vehicle readily at a publicly accessible charger (sometimes a situation abused by longer-term parkers) and the original supplier of the electricity (which might be from a fossil-fuel fired generator that defeats the whole object).

‘Stop:start’ technology is not always as beneficial in actual use, as laboratory tests might propose and, unless the starter is of a pre-engaged type, or operates by solenoid, a jolt and far from smooth restarting is the result. There is also an additional fuel cost, as the car can demand more of it with each restart.

Conclusion:   Being an eco-motorist may not be as viable as most motorists hoping to save money and the environment might believe. Yet, the psychological benefits may be substantial. Fuel cell technology can be described as a damp squib and, without governmental support, even plug-in hybrids begin to look conspicuously expensive, with no trade-in benefit. It is truly a case of ‘caveat emptor’.