So, you’ve heard about electric vehicles (EV’s). You also know that if you’re not quite ready to take the fully electrified car plunge you can opt for a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV). You’ve just about got your head around the difference between the two and the technology involved. But what about self-charging cars?
Firstly, lets recap.
Rather than combustion engines which run on petrol or diesel, EV’s have rechargeable batteries. The electric car is plugged in to a charge point and takes electricity from the grid to power an electric motor which turns the wheels. They are better for the environment as well as public health as they do not produce emissions. They are also more economical as they do not require petrol or diesel fuel.
A PHEV uses both a petrol or diesel engine and an electric motor, but not at the same time. The vehicle runs on power from the electric motor and then when that power runs out the engine kicks in. The car must then be plugged in to recharge/gain electric power.
Self-charging cars are non-plug-in hybrids. As in, there is no need to plug them into an ordinary socket or an electric vehicle charge point. Toyota, Lexus and Kia are the biggest sellers of this type of car. Kia explains on its website that these hybrids switch between petrol and electric power or use a combination of both and that the battery is recharged using kinetic energy which has been converted by the Regenerative Braking System. In other words, rather than plugging the vehicle in and having to wait for it to gain charge, the driver builds up the battery level of the car while on the move.
The battery energy you normally lose when braking is recovered by a self-charging hybrid and is then used to assist the engine when accelerating. When you reduce the effort required by the engine to accelerate, you help to reduce fuel consumption. Therefore, self-charging hybrids help you save money on fuel costs while producing lower levels of CO2 emissions than that of a petrol or diesel model. They also have a lower starting price than their plug-in hybrid and fully electric siblings.
What’s not to like?!
Well, some argue that the phrase ‘Self-Charging’ is misleading. Lexus and Toyota came up with the name as a dig at fully electric cars which need to be manually plugged in to charge and therefore require a bit of effort. However, self-charging cars are not quite as effortless and magical as they seem since you must actively use the car for it to charge. The carmakers have defended their use of the phrase by stating that they needed a way to differentiate between the variants offered and this phrase is the easiest way for consumers to understand how the technology works.
Self-charging vehicles have a much smaller battery pack than plug-in hybrids and fully electric cars. Because of this they typically cover less than a mile on electric power. When you compare that to the 20-30-mile capability of an PHEV you realise that they are far less efficient. If you cover short distances and can plug-in regularly, a plug-in hybrid is much more economical.
And while a self-charging option may feel effortless as you don’t need to plug-in at all, many EV’s can travel in excess of 200 miles on a full charge so you don’t have to plug them in as much as you may think.
It certainly takes a bit of weighing up the pros and cons of all three electric options to see which better suits your needs and lifestyle. However, all options are proven to be more efficient and greener to the environment than standard combustion engines. With the UK government bringing in a ban on new petrol and diesel engine cars by 2035, is now the time for you to switch?