The pros and cons of hybrid cars

Electric vehicles are quickly gaining popularity around the world. In South Africa, the adoption is slower, but interest is growing. In the meantime, hybrid cars are leading the way.

Hybrid cars pair an electric motor and a battery with a petrol or diesel engine, and they work together to boost efficiency. The petrol engine sends power to charge the battery pack, and energy from braking is captured and stored as energy. In this way, they are ‘self-charging’.  Most good hybrids include a choice of power modes ranging from eco to power. Unlike pure electric vehicles (EVs), you won’t have to worry about running out battery because the combustion engine is always there when you need it.

“With the high price of EVs, a hybrid vehicle might be a steppingstone towards all-electric, offering two clear benefits: enhanced fuel efficiency and lower emissions,” explains Barend Smit, Marketing Director of MotorHappy, a supplier of motor management solutions and car insurance options. “While the country grapples with ongoing electricity issues and better infrastructure for EVs is installed, hybrid cars are a good transitional option.”

However, Smit cautions that while there are good environmental and financial advantages to hybrid vehicles, they are not the best solution for all drivers. Below are some pros and cons which you should consider before buying a hybrid car.

Pros

  • Environmentally friendly due to lower sulphur and nitrogen oxides emission
  • Savings on fuel costs
  • Quieter than conventional gasoline-powered cars
  • Less wear and tear on the car’s engine, thus requires less maintenance
  • No ‘range anxiety’ as in the case of fully electric cars, because your engine powers the hybrid battery

Cons

  • Higher upfront costs, although they are still more affordable than EVs
  • Batteries are expensive and require replacement after around 10 years
  • Not economical on highway driving because hybrids use more gasoline power on faster speeds
  • Repair costs for hybrid engines are high

Some older hybrid models had experimental features which failed, and their batteries deteriorated quickly, such as the Honda Accord Hybrid in 2005, and SUV Hybrids by GM in 2008. Since those early days, hybrid technology has improved significantly.

“If you’re going to choose a hybrid model, it’s advisable to choose a newer model with the latest technology to avoid reliability issues,” concludes Smit.