Interest in buying and leasing hybrid vehicles continues to grow amongst company car drivers seeking to reduce their benefit in kind (BIK) tax liability or avoid the 4% diesel surcharge, fleet managers striving to enhance their organisations’ environmental standings, and scheme opt-out cash allowance-takers; but deciphering the jargon and lingo can be confusing.

Hybrid cars that don’t need plugging in

Having to wait anywhere between 30 minutes and potentially around 36 hours to recharge a plug-in car’s battery just isn’t convenient or practical for many business and private motorists, which makes self-charging hybrids with their tax advantages an attractive prospect for certain drivers. Before exploring the differences between the various types of hybrid car out there, here are the models available that don’t need plugging in:

Toyota C-HR

Hybrid car does not need plugging in - Toyota C-HR

Kia Niro hybrid

Non-plugin full self charging hybrid car - Kia Niro SUV

Hyundai Ioniq hybrid

Hyundai Ioniq hybrid lease

New Toyota RAV4 SUV

New Toyota RAV4 full hybrid lease

New Honda CR-V hybrid

New Honda CR-V hybrid personal lease

Lexus UX – new small crossover

New Lexus UX compact small crossover

Along with parent company Toyota, Lexus is the leading pioneer in conventional, full, self-charging hybrid cars and offers a non-plugin hybrid version of all its models, from the CT luxury hatchback and IS and ES saloons to the NX and RX SUVs/4x4s. Oh, and the awesome RC, LS and LC, shown below.

Lexus LC sports car coupe - hybrid

Ford Mondeo estate (tourer) hybrid

Ford Mondeo estate -hybridIs there a difference between ‘conventional’, ‘full’ and ‘self-charging’ hybrids?

Hybrid essentially means combining two or more things and in the car context involves a diesel or more commonly petrol engine paired with a battery and sometimes an electric motor. Clearing the jargon up as simply as possible, a conventional or full hybrid is the same as a self-charging hybrid, but both of these prefixed terms are unnecessary, rather like offering someone ‘an apple fruit’ to eat. Normal, conventional hybrid cars feature relatively small batteries that can be topped up as the car moves along coasting, decelerating or braking. Energy harvested by means of movement is called kinetic, and in the case of hybrid cars, enables them to be driven modest distances on electricity.

What is a plug-in hybrid?

Plug-in hybrid cars can generally travel more miles on zero-emissions electric power because they don’t rely on their engines or on kinetic energy to recharge their batteries. As their name suggests, they can be plugged in, either to a home or commercial building’s conventional electricity circuit by means of a 3-pin plug or similar, to a dedicated plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) wall charger, or to a more rapid charger located at a supermarket, motorway services or similar using a special cable. Plug-in hybrid vehicles take anywhere between 30 minutes and 36 hours to charge by plugging them in, depending on the make, model and charging facilities used.

How is a ‘mild’ hybrid different?

‘Mild’ hybrids are becoming more common but on an almost subconscious level, manufacturers like Audi and Kia adding the technology to certain models to improve their efficiency but not marketing it as an aspirational model feature. Mild hybrid cars typically incorporate a starter generator in place of the starter motor, along with a comparatively tiny 48V battery that can be recharged kinetically and also enables stop-start engines to be turned off for longer durations, reducing fuel consumption, engine wear and tear, and CO2 exhaust gas emissions.

Are hybrid and plug-in cars eligible for the grant?

No, plug-in and other hybrid cars and vans are no longer eligible for the full category 1 discount of £3,500 through the government’s now ironically-named plug-in car grant (PiCG), as they can’t travel at least 70 miles on electricity while emitting under 50g/km CO2.

With this formerly desirable financial incentive pulled, the decision over whether to choose a hybrid or plug-in car mainly boils down to what its typical usage pattern will be like.

Which type of hybrid is best for long-distance drivers?

Motorway mile-munching isn’t especially well suited to self-charging hybrid cars firstly because hardly braking while driving at a constant speed with cruise control engaged doesn’t give the battery many chances to recoup its energy, and secondly because diesel will always return better fuel economy than plug-in hybrid let alone less efficient conventional hybrids, only electric presenting a viable alternative in the efficiency stakes. Mild hybrids (abbreviated as MHEV) are actually a pretty good choice for high-mileage motorway drivers, as they typically combine diesel with a basic electric setup to boost economy even further, by around an extra 5mpg.

Hybrids are ideal for urban driving with frequent stopping, starting, braking and coasting opportunities that replenish the relatively small battery and typically return slightly better fuel economy and emit fewer emissions than petrol cars. While hybrid cars can only cover a few miles on electricity, they’re usually relaxing to drive, quiet and come fitted with automatic gearboxes making slow-moving traffic more enjoyable.

The advantage plug-in cars have over full hybrids

Plug-in hybrids are a very attractive proposition for company car fleet business drivers and private motorists alike, who have a daily return commute of around 20-to-50 miles and have access to a charge point at the office, supermarket, gym or other typical destinations. It’s commonly possible to cover such mileage and usage patterns entirely on zero-emissions, through the smooth and silent driving experience of electric power. The downside is that even the fastest EV chargers can’t refill a car’s range, battery or tank as quickly as it takes to stop at a petrol or diesel pump.

Can hybrid cars run out of range?

No, ‘range anxiety’ associated with fully-electric cars doesn’t hang like a cloud over hybrid or plug-in cars, so although they’re ultimately not as green or cheap to run, they can be driven more or less like traditional petrol and diesel cars, although they do tend to be slightly more expensive to buy or lease on business and personal contract hire (PCH).

Are there tax benefits to driving a hybrid or plugin car?

Yes, company car fleet business drivers who choose or are assigned a hybrid or plug-in car by their fleet manager will enjoy lower benefit in kind (BIK) tax rates according to their salary bands, with such vehicles typically rated 2% lower than internal combustion engine petrol and diesel equivalents. Additionally, diesel hybrids, although rare and mainly confined to mild variants, are not subject to the 4% diesel supplement because they are classed as alternatively-fuelled vehicles (AFV).

Road tax (VED) is also usually cheaper for hybrid and plug-in cars due to their low CO2 emissions, although the standard rate charged from year 2 onwards is admittedly only £10 less for most hybrids and other battery electric vehicles (BEV), and models priced at more than £40,000 will be caught up in the ‘premium’ category which sees car tax for years 2 to 6 increased by an extra £320.

Contact Vehicle Consulting today to discuss which non-plugin hybrid models could be well-suited to your business or personal driving requirements.