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Are Consumers Beginning To Consider Hybrid Vehicles?

With news that the price of petrol is continuing to increase and is unlikely to stop, it is perhaps unsurprising that many more motorists are beginning to consider hybrid vehicles. These cars promise excellent fuel economy and offer the added benefits of zero rated car tax, lower insurance premiums and exemption from the London congestion charge.

With news that the price of petrol is continuing to increase and is unlikely to stop, it is perhaps unsurprising that many more motorists are beginning to consider hybrid vehicles. These cars promise excellent fuel economy and offer the added benefits of zero rated car tax, lower insurance premiums and exemption from the London congestion charge. It is certainly a compelling package but with the advent of super-efficient conventional cars, is the time of the hybrid already over?

 
The third generation Volkswagen Golf Bluemotion will go on sale in the UK this summer and early indications are that the car will significantly raise the bar in the battle for fuel economy supremacy against the hybrids. The new Golf claims a fuel consumption figure of 88.3mpg on the combined cycle. That means an average motorist, covering 9,300 miles, would, theoretically at least, only have to fill up the Golf's 11 gallon tank ten times in a year. Although impressive, far more telling is the comparison with equivalent hybrid cars. 
 
The Golf Bluemotion is expected to be priced at around £20,000 for the three door hatch and around £20,750 for the five door model. These figures compare favourably with the similarly sized Toyota Prius' sticker price of around £21,845 for the 1.8 VVT-i T3 CVT. The Prius with all of its electric batteries and energy reclamation technology manages 72mpg on the combined cycle. The Volkswagen Golf Bluemotion manages 88.3mpg. With figures like these, the new Golf could be a game changer.
 
Surely the hybrid car is greener in some other way, like CO2 emissions? Actually, no. The Prius emits 89g/km of CO2 compared to 85g/km for the Golf. In fact, the new Golf trumps every hybrid car available in the UK for fuel economy and is only slightly edged by one, the much smaller Toyota Yaris hybrid, on CO2 emissions. Figures like these are going to make the decision to buy a hybrid vehicle a lot less attractive after this summer.
 
While the fuel consumption and CO2 emissions figures are the criteria by which hybrid cars are judged, they do not present the entire environmental picture. The nickel in nickel-hydride batteries is thought to be a human carcinogen and all of the heavy metals in these batteries do have to be mined with the environmental impacts that this entails. CO2 emissions of hybrid cars are also higher in the manufacturing process. In the past this has been more than offset by reductions during the lifetime of the car but with the lower figures offered by the Volkswagen Golf Bluemotion, it is difficult to see how that argument can be sustained.

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