Buyers left fuming as Government outlaws hybrid cars.
The 330,443 people who have bought a new hybrid-powered car in the past two years are now wondering if they have been misled as to the environmental credentials of their transport choices.
In a classic case of “greenwashing”, it turns out that the cars they bought in good faith as better for the environment than conventional petrol- or diesel-engined models might now not be as clean as they had been led to believe.
They may also have to face the consequences of such vehicles dropping in value now that the Government has included plug-in hybrids in its proposed ban on the sale of all fossil fuel-powered cars by 2035, five years ahead of the previous target for such a move.
A similar thing happened with diesel. Consumers bought into the low-CO2 benefits of the fuel, encouraged by government via reduced taxation for the lowest-emitting models.
It was only when diesels were shown to produce high levels of nitrogen oxide (NOx) and particulates, affecting air quality particularly in large conurbations, that car taxation became less favourable, scare stories circulated and the values of diesel-engined cars plummeted.
Diesels accounted for 31.5 per cent of all new-car sales in 2018 following a high of about 50 per cent. That figure fell to 25.2 per cent for 2019 – and continues to fall as consumers either reverted to petrol or considered battery-electric propulsion.
Thus hybrids gained in popularity. These consist of either a conventional petrol or diesel engine combined with an electric motor powered by a small battery. The electric motor assists the internal combustion engine and can usually power the car for short distances (on average about 30 miles) on battery power alone.
With doubts over diesel and serious concerns about the range of electric cars, hybrids seemed an excellent interim solution for consumers and the car manufacturers. The rise of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), which you can charge as you might a fully electric car, was encouraged by a government grant towards the purchase price of such cutting-edge technology.
You might be as surprised as we were at the time when this grant was withdrawn, although it is too early to tell whether the values of used hybrids will tumble as spectacularly as those for diesels. I suspect not….
This reflects that the state of public car-charging in the UK leaves a lot to be desired and is unlikely to improve substantially in the short term. The widespread adoption of battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) will be limited for as long as this is the case.
Plug-in hybrids used properly – plugged in whenever possible – are, for now, the perfect handover.
And if you’re fuming about mixed messages from government about which is the best type of car to reduce emissions and air pollution, spare a thought for the car manufacturers which have spent billions investing in plug-in hybrid technology that adds significant cost to their wares.