Which is the best type of fuel for you?
It used to be so simple !! : most cars had petrol engines, most vans and lorries used diesel. Now we’ve got a range of power sources to consider when choosing new vehicles. It makes the decisions for fleet operators and business drivers much harder.
To help you choose between the main fuels now available, here’s our handy guide to the pros and cons of each:
Electric Vehicles (EVs)
How do they work? The car’s battery delivers 100% of its power, so there is no fall-back to a conventional. There are zero emissions and instant power in near-silence. Driving an EV is a very relaxing experience.
Best for: Commuters with shorter journeys, It’s easier to manage if you have a driveway or garage to get into the routine of charging overnight. With the evolving technology the range of a fully charged electric vehicle are increasing to accommodate the longer journeys (Tesla, Jaguar I pace)
- Zero emissions
- Minimal noise pollution and a quiet travelling experience
- Zero road tax and congestion charging
- Much Lowe personal tax (BIK) for company car drivers
- High residual value
- Lower maintenance costs
- Lower pence per mile costs
- Lower Whole life costs
- Presents a green image
- Instant acceleration
- Expensive to buy initially (but has a higher resale value)
- Limited range (though this is changing rapidly with new technology)
- Extensive time to recharge (though this is changing rapidly with new technology)
- Scarcity of recharging points (though this is changing rapidly with new technology)
- Electricity is usually generated by fossil fuel power stations so in essence defeats the purpose of ‘going green’ (though this is changing rapidly with new technology of sustainable energy sources)
How do they work? Hybrid cars alternate between electric and combustion engine use, with the energy from braking directed back into the small battery. The car chooses which power to use, considering acceleration, driving style and traffic conditions as well as the charge and fuel available.
Best for: Eco-friendly drivers who don’t want to have to deal with the range anxiety that comes from driving a purely electric car.
- Much cleaner and more fuel efficient, especially in urban motoring
- Resale values high
- Low tax bills and congestion charges
- The conventional engine means there are no range limits
- Generally, much more expensive than petrol vehicles to buy
- Maintenance may require specialist skills. Batteries expensive to replace
- Hybrids emit more emissions than a pure electric vehicle
- Plug-in hybrids need a dedicated charging infrastructure and take hours to recharge
- Engines are generally smaller, so produce less pulling power for larger loads
Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs)
How do they work? Think of a PHEV as the opposite of a hybrid – so it’s an electric car that has a traditionally-fuelled engine to extend its range. Rather than creating the electric power solely through regenerative braking or coasting, as would happen in a hybrid, PHEVs use a greater quota of electric power so they should be plugged into an electricity supply or charger to ‘fill up’ on a regular basis.
Best for: Those with off-street space to charge or access to a charger at work. Drivers who need the range for longer journeys but have a short commute – most fully-charged PHEVs can travel around 20-30 miles on electric power.
- The miles per gallon on a plug in hybrid are often amazing
- Emission levels are even lower than from regular hybrids
- Battery capacities large enough that you can drive on just the electric battery on short journeys
- Much cheaper to run than regular fuel
- Plug in hybrid batteries are more expensive than normal hybrid batteries.
- They have to be maintained as they have a regular fuel engine. Can be more expensive
- On longer trips the regular engine will do most of the work. This can cause reduced mileage over a long trip because your car is carrying unwanted weight in batteries plus the gasoline engine
- Biggest infrastructure, with more petrol fuel pumps
- Best driving enjoyment, thanks to the high-revving, responsive engines producing exciting sound
- The cheapest to buy!
- Petrol vehicles depreciate the fastest
- Contains carcinogens such as benzene. Burning petrol produces dangerous greenhouse gases
- The price of petrol is volatile
- Oil is a finite resource
- Petrol is a dangerous substance to store and handle
- Lower lifetime cost than petrol because of lower depreciation
- Engines last longer and tolerate much higher mileages than petrol
- More efficient (by around 25% compared to petrol) so fuel costs are less, providing pump prices stay close. Diesel’s better mpg becomes more pronounced over long distance journeys. Some diesels can even be more fuel-efficient than a petrol hybrid
- Produce less CO2, so road tax is lower than petrol
- Higher torque or pulling power means mid-range acceleration of larger diesel cars is often better than sports cars. This pulling power is why diesel is used for commercial vehicles: it can pull much greater loads than any other option here
- More expensive than petrol to buy (historically)
- Produce nitrous oxides, hydrocarbons and particulates, so not necessarily greener than petrol
- Insurance is higher for diesels than petrol’s, by up to 15% – because they cost more to replace or repair
- Engines generally require a little less routine servicing but if they do go wrong, repair costs are higher. Latest figures show diesel engines are slightly less reliable than petrol
- Volatile fuel price
- Oil is a finite resource
There are many pros and cons of running a fleet of vehicles with any one of these fuel types. Ultimately the decision of which fuel type, and which type of vehicle is chosen is up to each individual business, based upon the type of travel they do. Hopefully our quick guide above has given you some insight into the positives and negatives of each fuel type which will help you to make your own decisions.