The pros and cons of a hybrid vehicle

What makes a hybrid vehicle a good choice for South Africa

Reuben Van Niekerk
Consumer Advice
Electric Car
Fuel Consumption
Car Shopping

Electric vehicles are gaining popularity globally and it seems that every week some manufacturer launches a new electric model. In South Africa, the interest is growing but uptake is still very low. This is mostly since our energy supply remains very unstable. The cheapest electric vehicle currently on sale in South Africa also retails for approximately R750 000, so these vehicles are still expensive and thus remain out of reach of regular motorists.

However, hybrid vehicles are growing in popularity thanks to the fact that hybrid models are available at the more affordable end of the market. Case in point is the Toyota Corolla Cross which continues to perform exceptionally well on monthly sales charts.

How do hybrid vehicles work?

Hybrid vehicles pair an electric motor and a battery with a conventional petrol or diesel engine in a complimentary fashion. The internal combustion engine charges the battery which in turn powers the electric motor. The electric motor allows for pure electric driving at slow speed and assists the internal combustion engine at higher speeds as both the electric motor and the internal combustion engine then work in unison to power the vehicle. With less reliance on the internal combustion engine for all the forward momentum fuel consumption and emissions are improved. Energy is recouped under braking via regenerative charging which assists in topping up the batteries.

The advantages of a hybrid vehicle

Hybrid vehicles are not limited in range, because even if the battery is completely depleted, the internal combustion engine is still able to power the vehicle. In addition, the charging system is designed to ensure that the electric system is never completely depleted, charging batteries via regenerative braking or via the internal combustion engine when necessary.

Due to the fact that the internal combustion engine is assisted by an additional power source, the fuel consumption of a hybrid vehicle is considerably less than the average traditional internal combustion powered vehicle.

Hybrid vehicles are kinder to the environment as along with lower fuel consumption comes significantly lower tailpipe emissions with the added benefits of a lower, if any, emissions tax. Hybrid vehicles are also much quieter, especially when driven in pure electric mode at slow speeds.

Due to the fact that they are self-charging there is no need to plug a hybrid vehicle in to charge, which means there is no need for additional infrastructure such as a charging network or a stable supply of electricity.

The disadvantages of a hybrid vehicle

Due to the need for the electric motor and the internal combustion engine to work symbiotically 99 percent of hybrid vehicles are fitted with CVT gearboxes. While this gearbox format is extremely efficient its driving characteristics are not favoured by everyone, especially those motorists who like to drive enthusiastically.

The upfront costs of a hybrid vehicle are slightly higher due to the more complex drivetrain and additional components like a battery and control system, however these costs are still significantly less than those of electric vehicles and will be recouped in the fuel costs saved over time.