Hybrid cars are rapidly growing in number on UK roads as motorists look to take advantage of financial incentives such as lower road tax and reduced fuel costs. Aside from this, hybrid cars are also exempt from the London congestion charge, and businesses can save on income tax by providing such cars for its employees. If you're particularly eco-friendly you may be further incentivised to learn that many insurers will pledge to invest in green schemes such as tree planting, in an effort to offset any environmental damage caused by your vehicle.
What is a 'hybrid car'?
Hybrid cars are championed for emitting less CO2 (carbon dioxide) than standard vehicles, and therefore have less of a carbon footprint, meaning less of a contribution to global warming.They work by having two power sources; a traditional fuel engine plus an accompanying electric motor, which is either charged via a cable, or more commonly; during motion from use of the fuel engine. The types of hybrid cars vary slightly, but most rely on the electric engine for short less demanding journeys, with the combustion engine kicking in when more power is required.
As a result you should expect to save 15% - 30% in fuel running costs, particularly if your main usage is around a town or city where the battery power is likely to be enough to rely on.
Types of hybrid car
Hybrid cars are often grouped into four categories:
- Plug-in hybrids are plugged in and charged at an external power source as well as being charged on the move by the fuel engine
- Series Hybrids use the electric motor to power the car, and the fuel engine recharges the battery pack. The combustion engine kicks in at around 50 miles to provide the required power for longer journeys
- Parallel Hybrids have the ability to be powered by both motors in tandem when required, depending on speed and load
- Mild & Full Hybrids indicates the role of the electric motor, with 'mild hybrids' featuring the electric engine in a supporting role, and 'full hybrids' meaning the electric motor is capable of fully propelling the vehicle at full speed.
Type of Insurance
As with standard car insurance, hybrid car insurance is mandatory for anyone planning to take to the road, and falls into one of three types of standard cover:
- Third Party: This is the most basic type of cover and therefore the cheapest. You might also consider this the minimum legal requirement. It basically covers any other parties should you damage their vehicle or property, but offers no coverage for any costs to the damage of your vehicle
- Third Party Fire & Theft: This is second level of insurance available and covers third party damage, as mentioned above, as well as covering any damage to your vehicle in the event of fire or theft
- Fully Comprehensive: This is the highest level of policy you can acquire. It will insure you for all of the above, as well as covering yourself for any accidental damage to your car. Typically you’ll also be insured for any personal effects in the car such as your sat nav, as well as (at least third party) coverage to drive another person’s car with their permission
Things to note
Hybrid cars are now so common that all mainstream insurers offer policies for this type of vehicle, whereas policies for purely electric cars are more difficult to come by. As always you're advised to cross reference different policies and scrutinise the small print. As with standard car insurance, you'll want to look out for options such as legal expenses cover and provision of replacement car curing repair. For more tips and information along this line, please see our 'beginner’s guide to car insurance'
Unfortunately, hybrid cars have higher repair costs than standard cars due to the complexity of the engine, and as a knock-on effect you can expect your premium to be a little higher, than that of the same model with a standard engine. It's likely that you'll be able to offset this cost with savings from tax and reduction in fuel costs. But with the average hybrid car costing around £2000-£5000 more than an equivalent model with a combustion engine, it's worth trying to estimate and calculate your usage beforehand; particularly if your main aim is to save money, as the payback period may be a year or more on your original investment.
No doubt, if you're investing in fully comprehensive insurance you'll want to ensure you have appropriate cover against any repairs needed, -otherwise you could be picking up a large part of the bill yourself. You may also want to consider any inconvenience or difficulties you may encounter if work is needed after an accident, as hybrid cars will require specialist expertise, and certified garages can be more difficult to locate.Image: © Rawpixelimages | Dreamstime.com