In-depth guide into hybrid vehicles

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#Alternative Fuels, #Fleet
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Businesses are now starting to consider greener alternatives for their fleets as the 2035 ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles is fast approaching. However, there are still concerns about EV technology as it’s seen as inaccessible and impractical by many. Hybrid vehicles, therefore, offer a fantastic alternative as they can help to reduce carbon emissions, save businesses money, and can be used for long-distance journeys.

To help businesses determine if hybrid vehicles are the right choice for their fleet, we’ve investigated how they work and considered the benefits they offer.

What is a hybrid vehicle?

Hybrid vehicles use a combination of a petrol or diesel ICE engine and an electric motor. There are 3 main types of hybrid vehicles for businesses to choose from:

  • Mild hybrid electric vehicle – These vehicles use an electric motor and battery to assist the combustion engine, however, they cannot run on electric power alone. They’re able to boost performance and improve fuel economy, but only have a small impact on a vehicle’s emissions. Mild hybrids also offer a similar driving experience to petrol or diesel vehicles, making it easier for drivers to make the switch.

  • Self-charging hybrid vehicle – Otherwise known as a full hybrid, this type of vehicle primarily uses its petrol or diesel engine with electric-only power becoming available when it’s more efficient to do so, such as driving at very low speeds. There’s no need to recharge at a plug and they consume less fuel and emit less CO2 than their ICE counterparts. This makes self-charging hybrids a practical and cost-efficient choice for drivers that are frequently on the road.

  • Plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV) - The benefit of these vehicles is that they can be driven for distances of around 30 miles using electric power alone, making them the most environmental type of hybrid vehicle. To use this vehicle, drivers will need to recharge from an external source, such as a home wall box or public charging point. Your vehicle will still run if it’s not recharged, however, this may have a negative impact on your vehicle’s fuel economy and sustainability.  

How do hybrid vehicles work?

The engine of a hybrid is generally smaller than a conventional vehicle and has fewer cylinders, therefore less fuel is required to move the internal components. Most hybrid vehicles recharge their batteries by collecting wasted energy from elsewhere. This is primarily done through regenerative braking which captures the kinetic energy released during braking and uses it to charge the batteries.  

Hybrid charging and refuelling

Plug-in hybrids need to be recharged using either a public charging point or a home charger. It can take around 3-5 hours to fully recharge, however, this will depend on the speed of the charger and the size of the vehicle’s battery. Plug-in hybrids don’t need to be recharged as frequently as fully electric vehicles as they’re able to run off their ICE engine, even if the battery is depleted. This makes them more practical and reduces the risk of ‘range anxiety’, although it does limit their electric-only range and so drivers should always try to keep their hybrid charged whenever possible.  

As hybrid vehicles have a petrol or diesel engine, they also need to be refuelled regularly. They are often more fuel-efficient as they use an electric motor, but this will depend on the type of hybrid and the way it’s driven.    

Pros of hybrid vehicles

Hybrid vehicles are becoming increasingly popular with over 445,000 plug-in hybrids on the road in the UK. They offer many environmental and financial benefits which is why they’re so appealing to businesses. Some of the main advantages of hybrid vehicles include:

  • Fewer tailpipe emissions help to protect the environment.
  • Fuel efficient, saving businesses money.
  • Often require less maintenance than their ICE counterparts.
  • Convenient charging, making them an ideal choice for drivers on the move.
  • Lower road tax and a reduction in the benefit-in-kind (BIK) rate.

Cons of hybrid vehicles

Although hybrid vehicles have their advantages, they are not always a practical choice for drivers. The main challenges of hybrid vehicles are:

  • More expensive to purchase than petrol and diesel vehicles.
  • Maintenance and replacement of the battery can be costly.
  • Limited towing capacity as this can drain the batteries in a hybrid vehicle.
  • Regular access to a charger is required for a plug-in hybrid which can be impractical for drivers that regularly travel long distances.

Hybrid vehicles will have an undeniable role in helping to decarbonise fleets across the UK as they have low running costs and are highly reliable, plus they can reduce the carbon footprint of businesses. Although hybrid vehicles have their challenges, they can be used as part of a transitional phase to ease drivers into using electric vehicles in the future.

As hybrid vehicles still need to refuelled, drivers can continue to benefit from our wide range of fuel cards which are designed to save you time and money. There’s no need to keep hold of receipts as all transactions can be easily monitored online and you can pay conveniently via direct debit every week.

Explore our selection of fuel cards via our comparison tool or contact our friendly team at 0113 202 5110 to discuss your options in more detail. However, if you are looking to make the switch to electric, you can register your interest in our upcoming EV charge card.

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Matt Dodds
Head of Strategic Sales and Partnerships

With over 14 years of experience across two of the leading fuel card companies in the UK, Matt Dodds joined RFC Edenred to help lead the development of products to support our customer's move to EV and other alternative fuels, a transition he feels passionately about.