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There has been a dramatic increase in demand for PHEVs in the past couple of years with 48,000 plug-in electric vehicles now purchased up to December 2015. In 2011, there were just two PHEVs to choose from, but now there are more than a dozen on the market as manufacturers now appreciate the long-term benefits to hybrid technology.
PHEV models offer excellent flexibility to buyers, offering the benefits of an all-electric battery powered car combined with the range of a conventional petrol or diesel motor. If your lifestyle is better suited to an all-electric vehicle, take a look at our Guide to electric cars.
To find the right hybrid car for you, read our article on Best Hybrid Cars containing information on the latest models available. Or, for more information on purchasing a PHEV, follow Trusted Dealers’ guide below.
Should I buy one?
PHEVs are increasingly becoming a suitable option for almost all car-buyers as they offer many appealing benefits. The main benefit is the option to recharge your car directly from an electricity supply, meaning it can be re-charged on your driveway for little cost. The electric-only mode provides around 15-40 miles depending on the vehicle and with zero emission running costs in electric mode, you’ll save heaps of cash. The only drawback to purchasing a PHEV is the higher price tag you’ll pay, but this is being subsidised by the government with new rules coming into place from 1 March 2016.
Even in hybrid mode, PHEVs perform particularly well in stop-start traffic, with the car’s battery recouping some of the energy that would otherwise be lost through consistent braking. Having the choice of a conventional tank as well as the electric-mode means buyers do not have to worry about the range of the vehicle like they would with an all-electric car. However, in order to make the most out of your PHEV, it is strongly advised that buyers have access to a garage, drive or another mode of off-street parking in order to recharge the car’s battery – with 80% of UK car-owning households already having this type of access – the future looks bright for PHEVs!
When a PHEV might not be suitable for you
If you drive long distances frequently, a PHEV might not be suitable to your needs. At high constant power, the plug-in hybrid power-train adds little to the efficiency of the engine and you will also frequently exceed the car’s electric-only range. For longer journeys, a fuel-efficient diesel with a particulate filter might prove to be a better option.
What PHEVs are available?
Half of the models listed in the top ten EVs sold in the UK are PHEVs. The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is currently the best-selling EV in UK and has sold 10,000 units since its arrival in 2013. The all-electric Nissan Leaf is the second most popular EV whilst the BMW i3 is third place. Other PHEVs in the line-up include the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid, the Vauxhall Ampera and the BMW i8. For more information on the best hybrids to buy in 2016, click here
You’ll tend to pay more to buy a PHEV than a conventional car, but this will be offset by the lower fuel costs – fuel economy is high in hybrid mode, and cars can run fully on low cost electricity. In addition, there are incentives such as exemption from car tax (Vehicle Excise Duty) saving around £145 per year, exemption from fuel tax, and the Ultra Low Emission Discount Scheme (ULED) which exempts EVs from paying the London Congestion Charge – with a standard £11.50 payable daily charge, this could provide a potential annual saving of over £2,000.
How much more will I pay for a PHEV?
You’ll pay more for most plug-in hybrid cars than a conventional car, mainly due to the price of the plug-in drive-train which requires a high quality, large traction battery to enable the car to run. However, the good news is that the government has been subsidising plug-in cars and plug-in vans since 2011 by up to 25% of the cost of the vehicle to a maximum of £5,000 for cars and £8,000 for vans. Private and company car buyers are both eligible to receive the grants administered by the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV), and it requires no further work from you. The dealership will complete all the necessary paperwork and the grant will automatically be deducted when you purchase the car – simple.
NB: The government subsidies are set to change on 1 March 2016.
Leasing a PHEV
As PHEVs tend to cost more to buy but running costs are lower, many buyers find that leasing a PHEV is a more financially viable option – some models (or battery packs) are only available on lease. The advantage of leasing a PHEV is that buyers do not have to worry about the reduced cost of the car at resale, which remains uncertain due to the new insurgence of PHEVs on the market.
Plug-in hybrid vehicles are most suited to buyers who have reliable access to charging facilities either at home or at work. For travel further afield, there is currently a growing public charging network for PHEVs, or failing this, vehicles can just run on the petrol or diesel engine once the electric range expires. For more information on the network operators across the UK, visit the Zap-Map public charging guide.