Rock down to electric avenue, or not?

Having done an awful lot of research regarding the safest bet and most viable option of automotive technology to get involved with from an investment-in-your-sixties perspective, I still haven't got enough information to give a definitive answer. It is not as though I am confused, but to quote Donald Rumsfeld, I know what we know . . . . .But there are also unknown unknowns. . . . the ones we don't know we don't know," if you know what I mean? Simply put, the world is in such a state of flux with the UK being even fluxier with BREXIT still hanging over our heads, God only knows where  the world going to be in ten years time. Will there be a major breakthrough in Hydrogen technology. Will I win the lottery and so not give a damn? So, given that there are so many unknowns regarding the future, I am coming at this article purely from a solid, factually based, objective, non emotional viewpoint. For you, buying a car is much more subjective operation, so this article isn’t intended to help you choose your next brand model but to give you an insight into the features and benefits of the relative technologies available. When I asked the showroom manager at a prestigious brand outlet recently as to what he thought would be the technology that would "win out" 10 years from now. He shrugged his shoulders and told me, "Who knows, it is a bit of a lottery at the moment init." I ask you, what chance of you and I got dear reader?

I know you it is a very obvious point, but firstly and very importantly, before you chose your next wagon, work out how many miles and the type of miles you intend to do in the future.

The other five main criteria when looking for a new car are to my mind

1. Budget?

2. How fast or slow do you want it to go?

3. Which is your preferred brand?

4. How many and how near are charge points to your house and also have you room for charging at your house.?

5. What is the history

Nissan are one of the leaders in the development of electric cars

Further considerations should be given to brands in that some are still catching up with new technology, Your favourite make from past ownership may not have an the offering you want, so be sure to check independent review sites.

So what power/technology are you thinking of going for?

Hybrid. If you are the driver who has a mixed mileage lifestyle with the occasional long journey, go for the Hybrid.

Electric. If you live in a city, large or small and rarely go outside of your urban environment, I would recommend you look at Electric. They can be very efficient, but if you want to go fast and throw them about, you will use up very significant power reserves. Electric cars are much heavier than their wet-fuelled counterparts as they have large batteries. Expect to pay 70 pence to £1 for your electric for every 30 miles you do. Once again, this depends on the model.

Diesel. If you want a large car, good MPG and are bucking the average 12-14k miles per year trend, then Mr Diesel is your guy. 

Petrol. Petrol is the in-between alternative, ideal for light- to medium-weight vehicles that won’t frequently be used for longer journeys with Petrol as a fuel being cheaper than Diesel, and expected to get cheaper.

Petrol engine vehicles will be the cheapest to buy and can still be very inexpensive or even free from a Road Tax perspective. £20.00 per year will cover you for a 1.0 litre VW Polo for example with averaging 40 mpg around town and 60+MPG on a run when driven sedately. This is the car I purchased for my Son and has proved to be an excellent investment from a cost-in-use and practicality point of view. Larger engine petrol cars can be thirsty with £400 – £500+ road tax too depending on emissions allied to list price.

Hybrids fall into two categories, both being more expensive than petrol only, but hey, you still pay nothing for road tax on most. There are Self Charging (Pure) Hybrid or Plug-In Hybrid (PHEV). Self-charging being the original Hybrid and pioneered by Toyota and Honda with others coming into the market more recently such as Hyundai with their Ioniq model. As the name suggests, these vehicles “self-charge” from their petrol engine when decelerating, braking or coasting, but I believe some power will be used from the engine to top up the battery for the electric motor when necessary for use around town. You can go one step further and continue to reduce your carbon footprint by charging your electric vehicle from a renewable energy source. This can be done by installing solar panels at home, for example. There are options for  green electricity tariffs from a supplier that provides energy from renewable sources such as wind farms, solar panels and wind generators. 


 So, hybrids can be very economical for short run and particularly when running around towns and cities, but not as economical as diesel on motorways or a lengthy journey. A colleague I spoke to about his Hyundai Ioniq said that overall, it takes the petrol engine nearer to a diesel-engine in terms of economy figures. A retired customer of mine has just given up his Mercedes C220d Coupe and has taken delivery of a Toyota C-HR and rates it very highly. 55 mpg is easily achieved just running around on a combination of Petrol and Electric, but then again he is doing regular short to medium journeys.

The next category is Electric where there are more models than ever before, an obvious statement I know given the pace of technology. Importantly their is at the moment a "glut" of electric cars in the marketplace so hunt around for some fantastic bargains to be had covering practically every class from Mini to Supermini to Luxury Grand Tourer. 

The first Supermini class electric cars as you are probably aware were the Nissan Leaf and Renault Zoe, sharing the same chassis and running gear and claiming just over 100 miles on a full charge. However, nothing is as straight forward as it seems with cars. There is always something the sales guy didn't tell you because he or she quite genuinely forgot. Take for instance a friend I spoke to recently who bought a Leaf telling me he was lucky to get a range of 60 miles in the winter. So temperature may also be a determining factor when it comes to mileage! Admittedly there are zero emissions from a pure electric car and this is reflected in zero road tax and no queuing at petrol station pumps! The price tag however on these is high at a starting point of £27K.

Porsche Taycan with around a 300 mile range. I'll take one blue and one red please.

Peugeot have now launched their new 208 with an all-electric option, as well as Petrol and Diesel but no Hybrid and likewise now that Peugeot own Vauxhall/Opel, there is a new Corsa utilising the same running gear.

The top end of this scale are the likes of the highly successful Tesla and now Porsche Taycan with around a 300 mile range. If money was no object I really would consider the all-electric Taycan Turbo S at £139K, 750 BHP and 0-62 in 2.6 seconds! Wouldn't we all.

Leaving the world of fantasy behind us however, we come to the Diesel category.

I firmly believe despite the recent bad publicity Diesels received, this technology still stacks up very well, particularly with the “Add Blue” variants. (Neutralising the harmful Nitrous Oxide particles in the emissions so complying with Euro 6 emission standards and compatible with Petrol engines).  I drive a BMW 520d touring. It’s a big comfortable car with a 190 bhp, 2 litre Diesel engine and drives superbly.  producing 0-62mph  in 7.5 seconds and 40mpg running around town and up to  60+ on a long run. Ironically these mpg figures are virtually identical to my son’s 1 litre 60 bhp VW Polo! What an accolade for Diesel power! OK, my emissions are 119 g/km as opposed to 103 g/km of the Polo. But considering the difference in size and power of both cars and it becomes a very interesting comparison!

In Summary

To try and summarise is difficult but I will have a go. If you’re not doing a lot of mileage and are just running around locally, a small petrol engine car will suffice but you are producing a certain amount of internal combustion engine filth but your fuel will be cheaper than diesel and the cost of a new vehicle will be attractively cheaper than other technologies. If you want to spend a bit more money, you could go for a Hybrid and probably run mainly on electric and not see a filling station for a few months, produce a little filth so sleeping little easier at night, as your are being kinder to the environment. It’s worth pointing out that these “twin engine” cars are also quicker on acceleration, thanks to the simultaneous use of both power sources which can take certain models in to performance car league. Some call it a plus but I am not overly convinced having cars that start and stop silently, unlike stop/start on a Diesel engine for instance is a huge benefit, but it is down to personal choice. The only major down side, apart from the price premium if you go in this direction is that you do lose a fair bit of boot space to accommodate the space the battery takes up. 

You may want to consider 100% Electric cars as the technology advances, particularly in the area of battery size, charging points and range, albeit at a further price-premium than the Hybrids. Of course the engines are close to being silent even when driving at a pace, and this is something we are going to have to get use to as a society.  Whether driving a car or walking as a pedestrian at road sides, riding a cycle or motorbike, seeing and hearing are  obviously THE most important aids to self preservation. We expect cars to make a noise; it will take a long time for the brain to change their wiring to accept the opposite. To give perspective and context I will relay a story a good friend of mine spoke of earlier in the year before the infamous Lock-down kicked in.

" I was riding my bike in the Yorkshire Dales a couple of weeks ago and given there was nothing on the road and the terrible state of North Yorkshire Roads, I was riding up the more even and less potted centre of the road. To my chagrin, I eventually became aware, after much tooting of car horn behind me, that a Electric Nissan Leaf was trying to get past me. As the guy drove past, two fingers raised and hurling expletives at me, he finished his tirade with the words, "What's the matter you effin idiot, couldn't your hear me." Well, I couldn't hear him could I; effin idiot, cos his bloody car was virtually silent"!

We finish with Diesel cars. As mentioned before If you aim to travel 20,000 miles per year, including motoring holidays and have the prerequisite amount of cash in your account then nothing beats the efficiency of a Diesel and in particular the BMW Engine, but then again I would say that as an owner of said model. Low revs at high speed cruising with a fully laden a roof box will still return 40 plus mpg.

The new Mini Electric. From £24,900.00 on the road subject to all the usual stuff.

The Future?

For my own part at the age of 60 and not far off retirement, I will be keeping my eye on Mercedes who seem to have a lead over the others with their Diesel Plug-in Hybrid technology, as long as battery size does not mean a compromise in luggage space.  Contrary to belief, size really DOES matter especially as we will all be Staycationing for at least the next 18 months. As for residual values? Whatever you may buy, I have to be honest and say I haven't got a clue. As mentioned before, the Covid19 Crisis has been part instrumental in a lot of new cars remaining unsold especially electric only. This is good in one sense as there are bargains to be had, what knock on effects it will have for the industry in general and to our pockets in two years time are more difficult to fathom. 

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