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CONSUMER ADVICE The Truth About Hybrid Cars.

Hybrids are increasing in popularity thanks to astonishing fuel economy and the smooth quiet ride they can deliver around town.  Whilst they account for just 3% of sales in the UK, this is set to accelerate as the government is investing £600 million (about Kshs. 80 billion) to support the move to alternative fuel vehicles using tax breaks and other means.  Manufacturers have also invested heavily in new technologies resulting in the latest hybrids having a sleeker look than their predecessors. As a newer technology it is often misunderstood, so we’ve taken a closer look at the myths surrounding hybrids to find out what they offer the modern consumer.

So what exactly does hybrid mean?

A hybrid car is one that combines a combustion engine (either petrol or diesel) with an electric motor to pull itself along. It is seen as a stepping stone from petrol and diesel cars to full blown electric and hydrogen fuel cell cars. If the term hybrid conjures up images of plug in cars and specialist electric recharging systems, then you’ll be relieved to know that a hybrid doesn’t require recharging with wires. A plug-in hybrid such as the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV will need recharging, and plug-in will always be in the name. Otherwise, you are running your full hybrid like a normal petrol or diesel engine.

Is It True That Hybrids are Small and Underpowered?

Not anymore. The main manufacturers offer full hybrids of their most popular cars. For example the Lexus GS 450h has more than 300 horsepower (hp) and can reach 100kph quicker than many conventional engines. The Porsche Cayenne Hybrid delivers 419 hp, while the Range Rover Sport Hybrid has a V6 engine which has 340 hp. We could go on, but you get the picture. The market has moved on and hybrids no longer belong to environmentalists and “tree-huggers”.

Hybrid cars have unbelievable fuel economy.

Not always; thanks to the more exciting high powered technology under the bonnet. It really depends on the spec you choose and how you drive them. The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV boasts a stellar 1.7L/100Km! Be careful as the official fuel efficiency tests are run over short distances which favour the hybrid stats. If you are travelling long distances and clocking up those kilometres, then its safe to say that you’ll mostly benefit from a diesel engine. The ideal hybrid driver is the city driver who doesn’t often travel at great speed over large distances; thus being able to achieve their fuel efficiency dreams. To give you a feel, the best fuel efficiency claims are around 2.6L/100Km. Very impressive stuff when you add your potential saving up across the year!

All hybrids are expensive.

Just like the conventional market, it depends on the car you choose. Everyone knows that buying a Rolls Royce is going to need a few more bob than normal, but that’s what you expect. The manufacturers offer a range of cars for a range of pockets so you should be able to find one that suits your budget. If you’re importing you can get asset finance now from NIC or CBA via their partnership with MHH International and make monthly repayments just like buying a local car. No hassle. So the choice of cars is almost limitless. The cheapest hybrids are selling for KES 600K in the UK. These are the smaller Hondas and Toyotas. If you are looking for something bigger for the family then you are likely to pay KES 1.8M for a used Mercedes E300 or a Lexus RX 400h.

Hybrid Batteries Need to be Replaced Frequently.

One of the biggest myths about the hybrid is that the battery life is short and expensive to replace. The standard warranty for most hybrid batteries is between 80,000-100,000 miles. There are anecdotes of much longer lifespans and some UK dealers have told us that they have never had to replace a battery, even when handling cars that are 10 years old. That said, the Toyota warranty is guaranteed for 100,000 miles and Honda and Ford for 80,000 miles. The current cost to replace a battery is £1,000 to£3,000. But when you take a long term view on this versus the diesel you have saved yourself, you’ll most likely still have made significant savings.

My Car will Stall if the Battery Runs Down.

Maybe a hangover from the confusion with the plug-in, this is not the case for the full hybrid. The engineers design the battery to be fed by the kinetic energy that is lost when the car is braking. This way the car is constantly re-charged even when in motion.

Hybrids are the Cars for the Liberal Valued.

The power of celebrity is scary isn’t it? The original marketing campaigns for the Prius got a lot of well meaning individuals to be photographed driving their new ‘environmentally friendly’ Prius, saving the world together. Moving into the present day, the more savvy motorist has been keeping a close eye on the performance and fuel efficiency stats and have now been enticed into driving a hybrid. The BMW i8 plug-in has taken the liberal image and turned it on its head. Watch the Jeremy Clarkson i8 road trip & enjoy his personal battle with trying not to love it. Enough said.

Hybrid Cars Cost More to Maintain.

The U.S Department of Energy state that maintenance for the hybrid engine are similar to conventional engines. The electrics (battery, motor and associated electronics) will likely require minimal scheduled maintenance. And claim that “due to the effects of regenerative braking, the brake systems on these cars typically last longer than those on conventional vehicles.” So the net effect appears to be a similar to your typical conventional car or slightly less.

With all this in mind moving to a hybrid makes a lot of sense. Who can’t get excited about 80mpg every day? If that’s got you thinking here’s a round up of the most popular larger hybrids available for import and an idea of how much they’ll cost CIF.

Choose Your Hybrid Cars from the UK Today

Car Miles CIF Price NIC Bank Estimated Monthly Repayment*
2013 Lexus RX 450h

 

66,000 £24,875

 

KES 67,208
2013 Audi A8 2L TFSI Hyrbid 38,000 £25,325

 

KES 68,424
2014 BMW 7 Series 740i ActiveHybrid M Sport

 

19,000 £36,625

 

KES 98,995

 

2015 Mercedes S400L Hybrid SE Line

 

1,021 £48,800

 

KES 131,850
2015 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid

 

6,821

 

£62,825

 

KES 169,744
2016 Range Rover Sport 3.0 SDV6 Hybrid Autobiography Dynamic 2,800 £69,830

 

KES 188,671
2016 Porsche Panamera E-Hybrid 3L SE

 

£76,960

 

KES 207,935

 

*assumes 60 month repayment plan with a 20% deposit.

 

By Rowan Benn

Marketing Director, MHH International Ltd