Are Plug In Hybrid Cars Becoming More Viable?

Written by Karen Bryan

plug in electric car chargerWe’ve always dismissed having an electric car due to range anxiety. Our two regular longer journeys are a 115 mile return trip to see one of our sons in Edinburgh, and a 200 mile return trip to see our other son in Glasgow. Both these journeys are too long for a single charge in most electric cars. It would be a pain searching for a charging point at our destination.

Plus, there’s the fact that many electric cars are so much more expensive to purchase, e.g. the Nissan Leaf costs around £21,500 (even after the £5,000 Government plug in grant has been deducted). That’s almost double what we paid for our similarly sized diesel-powered Skoda Fabia 1.6TD 75bhp, which averages 62mpg.

The problem of limited range can be solved with a petrol/electric hybrid car. But they also seem expensive to buy. The best known model, the Toyota Prius costs from £21,995 (after the £5,000 plug-in grant).

When I first read that the best selling plug in hybrid car in the UK, the Mitsubishi Outlander Plug In Hybrid Vehicle (PIHV) costing from £28,249 (factoring in the £5,000 plug-in grant), could achieve 32 miles on a full charge, I laughed. As it’s a seven seater sports utility vehicle (SUV), I wasn’t surprised it could only manage 32 miles.

However on closer inspection, I could see the merit of this type of car for people who buy SUVs. The cheapest diesel version of the Outlander currently costs £25,009, which is only £3,150 less than the hybrid model.

The Outlander PIHV automatically switches to petrol mode once the lithium-ion battery power is low. When the engine is running it can simultaneously charge the lithium-ion battery. This combination offers a combined range of 510 miles. I assume that a supermini version of this vehicle might be able to attain a higher range, plus be cheaper to buy.

As the Outlander PIHV has low emissions, there’s no road tax or London congestion charge levied. I do have a sneaky suspicion that the UK Government will have to find a way to replace the lower road and fuel tax revenue if more people buy low emission plug in hybrid cars.

I suppose that the Outlander PIHV would be ideal for people who do less than a 32 mile return trip to work and/or regularly use the car to do shopping, leisure activities, visit friends and relatives living within a 16 miles radius of their home.

I still have misgivings about the life span of the battery of a car partly powered by electricity and how much it’d cost to replace the battery. But, if plug in hybrid cars become cheaper to purchase and maintain, we’ll seriously look at buying one when our current car needs replaced.