As the use of fossil fuels continues to be vilified, and as alternative and more sustainable means of propulsion become ever more fashionable, we’re sure that you’d have been tempted to make the switch.
Besides, with generous government rebates, and overall lower running costs, it just makes sense to go hybrid or electric at this juncture, right? The actual motivation behind the switch though, is probably a lot more complicated than that. Before we can come to a general consensus on if an EV is suitable for you, we should go over the pros and cons of each method of propulsion.
As with everything in life, it’s all a balancing act. There’s a reason why petrol power has been the go-to for the past century. Fuel stations are scattered across the globe, and are readily accessible. Refuelling an internal combustion engined (ICE) vehicle also only takes mere minutes, and it will return an average realistic range of upwards of 300 kilometres, even if you have an eager right foot.
But the allure doesn’t stop there. Crude as they may be (in regards to electric motors anyways!), there’s a satisfying, mechanical connection that car enthusiasts swear by, something that many believe an electric motor will never be able to replicate.
That being said, with ever increasing fuel costs, and government ruling taxing fuel-guzzling ICE cars, you get the sense that there’s an attempt, albeit a subtle one, to dissuade new car owners from buying fossil-fueled cars.
The Humble Hybrids
Which is why the hybrid sounds like a happy middle ground. Originally devised as a means to maximise efficiency, automakers eventually realised that the electric motor and battery combo, when used in the context of a performance vehicle, can actually be used to amplify the effects of internal combustion.
There are three main types of hybrids that you’d find on our roads today. Do note that there are technically many subcategories within each classification, but for the purposes of this article, we are generalising.
You have your ‘traditional’ hybrid, popularised by the Toyota Prius. These are normal cars, but with an additional motor and a tiny battery pack. The electrified portion of the powertrain is designed to take the load off the ICE at low speeds, where it is the least efficient, and can also help to recoup energy when braking to further increase efficiency.
Mild Hybrids are less involved. There’s no battery pack or dedicated electric motor in this application - automakers swap out the starter motor and the onboard 12V battery for reinforced units. These can then be used to help the engine spin up a little quicker, minimising the time the engine stays in the part of the powerband that it is the least efficient in.
Plug-In Hybrids are by far the most complicated variant of the trio. You get a regular ICE powertrain, and a complete, albeit scaled back, EV drivetrain too. The battery pack in PHEVs are much larger than the other two, and the electric motor often has significantly more power too. These vehicles in theory can operate as normal, parallel hybrids, though with their increased electrical capabilities, often actually have usable pure EV ranges (usually 20+ kilometres) if you actually plug the car in to charge.
Finally, the EV. Ironically, despite being the most technologically advanced of all the types of cars mentioned above, they are actually the simplest mechanically. The standard formula for an EV essentially involves stuffing a large battery pack underneath the floor of the vehicle, with a choice of dual or single motors driving either all the wheels, or one of the axles respectively.
EV owners stand to enjoy massive savings from the day they decide to make the purchase. Government grants and lower running costs may tempt you into buying an electric car, but do keep in mind that you will have to alter your driving and usage habits to take into account charging times if you do not have access to a charger at your place of business or residence!
Fast chargers typically top off EV batteries in around 45 minutes, with slower chargers completing the charge in up to eight hours!
Should You Make The Switch?
Ultimately, it’s a decision you have to make for yourself. A pure EV does seem like a wise investment, seeing that you’ll be saving upwards of $45,000 upfront. Though manufacturers claim, and the battery chemistry backs this up, that the powerpacks onboard are unlikely to fail, it is something that remains to be seen in our climate.
We test quite a few new cars in our line of work, and we can confidently say that for the price of one fill-up, you can top up an EV's battery with enough range to cover up to thrice the distance of that one tank of petrol. If you drive a lot, that does present some very healthy savings. But with charging infrastructure in its infancy, you'll have to be prepared to make some lifestyle changes to facilitate recharging.
As such, hybrids still seem to be the favourite at the moment. As the cost of PHEVs continues to fall, you can expect to see more mainstream manufacturers producing these vehicles, and have them be society’s gateway into EV ownership.
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