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From Alfa to Volvo there are host of non petrol and diesel options to choose from, but how do they differ and which is best suited to you asks Geraldine Herbert

Battery Electric Car (BEV)

These cars run exclusively on electricity and never use petrol or diesel. Powering an EV is an electric motor and a battery pack, the purpose of the battery pack is to store the electricity so to charge them they must be plugged in.

Tesla Model 3

Pros: Smooth, silent and easy to drive, electric cars emit no harmful fumes. They are also really cheap to run. The ESB estimate to drive 300kms in an averaged sized electric car will cost you in the region of €4 a week to charge. EV drivers also benefit from low servicing costs as they have far fewer moving parts than a petrol or diesel car and from low motor tax.

Cons: Long journeys need planning as the current network of charging points is unreliable in places.

Best for: Ideally, you need to have access to off-street parking or access to charging at work and a predictable commute.

Most popular: Tesla Model 3, Nissan Leaf, Volkswagen ID.3

Plug in Hybrid (PHEV)

Plug in hybrids have a much larger battery and electric motor than regular hybrids so they can be driven on just electric power for a much longer period. In fact, you can do on average about 50kms on electric power so depending on your daily requirements you could do your entire commute without using any fuel. As the name suggests, you must plug them in to charge the battery.

Kia Niro

Pros: The all-electric range tends to be better in PHEVs than in regular hybrids plus you can top them up in a short time but you must be prepared to charge them nightly to get the full benefit.

Cons: The fuel saving is most evident in an urban area where the car is run on electric mode but at motorway speeds when the petrol engine takes over the efficiency is not great. 

Best for: Phevs are a great choice for those with a commute that takes full advantage of the all electric range.

Most popular: Kia Niro, BMW X5, Mitsubishi Outlander

Hybrid (HEV)

You get the best of both worlds with a hybrid car as they are powered by both an electric motor and a petrol or diesel engine. The idea is that the electric motor works for a short time at low speeds and the engine takes over at higher speeds. The benefit of a hybrid is you get better fuel economy and lower emissions than from a standard petrol car.

Toyota CH-R

Pros: You get good fuel economy and lower emissions hybrids and you don’t have to worry about having to find a charging point.

Cons: Hybrid emissions aren’t stunningly low nor economy particularly high and as a result, hybrids don’t make sense for long-distance driving.

Best for: Those who have average commutes and a fairly balanced mix of motorway and city driving

Most popular: Toyota Corolla, Toyota CH-R, Toyota RAV4

Mild Hybrids (MHEV)

Mild hybrids are the newest form of hybrids and generally, they use a small secondary battery that is designed to help the engine work more efficiently and so reduce emissions and improve fuel economy. The   battery does not produce enough energy to power the car so they cannot drive in zero-emissions mode.

Ford Focus mhev

Pros: While mild hybrids offer small benefits when compared to other hybrids they do tend to be cheaper to buy.

Cons: They have higher emissions than regular hybrids and tend not to be as fuel-efficient either and crucially there is no electric only mode.

Best for: If your commute is too long or simply not suited to other hybrid options or a full electric car mild hybrid models do reduce your fuel bills and emissions so are worth considering.

Most popular: Ford Focus, Skoda Octavia, Kia Ceed


About the Author

Contributing Editor and Motoring Columnist for the Sunday Independent and editor of wheelsforwomen.ie. Geraldine Herbert is also a regular contributor to Good Housekeeping (UK) and to RTÉ, Newstalk, TodayFM and BBC Radio. You can follow Geraldine on Twitter at @GerHerbert1.


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