Which Vehicle? All Electric, Hybrid or Fossil Fuel Powered?

Choosing which make and model of vehicle is a challenge on its own. In recent years though owners have been given a new dilemma, due to technology breakthroughs a range of alternatively powered vehicles are now viable. Here we discuss the new contenders for vehicles, which include all-electric, plug-in hybrids, hydrogen-fuelled and the long-established ICE (internal combustion engine) fossil fuel-powered vehicles.

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The dilemma faced by vehicle owners right now

Most of the population will have noticed a surge in the popularity of electric and hybrid vehicles in recent years and a gradual move away from petrol/diesel ICE fuelled vehicles. We all know that this trend will continue to grow, but when exactly is the right time to make a switch to electric/hybrids or even hydrogen fuelled vehicles?

Manufacturers are investing significant amounts in R&D and product development to offer customers the same options for alternative-fuelled vehicles as they have for ICE models. The fact is though at the moment that alternative-fuelled vehicles are currently more costly than ICE models to buy, partially due to the fact they are manufactured in lower quantities.

There are other factors too such as range anxiety, a lack of charging infrastructure, rapidly emerging technology and concern from owners that they don’t really understand the options available to them.

We now go on to explore the various model types available and the way they operate, we hope this helps to provide some insight into the various options available to owners in the modern-day vehicle market.

A summary of vehicle types

Here is a summary of the main vehicle types available:

  • All-electric vehicles – these are a range of vehicles (e.g. cars, lorries, vans, buses, etc.) which have motion through one or more electric motors. These motors use energy most often supplied through batteries. These are rechargeable through a charging point, which may be at home or at a range of charging locations
  • Fossil fuel powered (ICE powered) – the mainstay of roads, for now, are fossil fuel powered vehicles. Using primarily petrol and diesel, these ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles have dominated for over a century. ICE cars start with a spark which ignites petrol vapour/compressed air causing it to burn. This is where the name “internal combustion engine” comes from. As the mixture burns and expands it provides the power to drive the vehicle
A charging point for electric vehicles

A charging point for electric vehicles

  • Hybrid electric vehicles – there are two main types, PHEV and HEV, which we discuss below:
    • Plug-in Hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) – potentially the best of both worlds! PHEVs harness the power of an internal electric motor, whilst also having ICE (internal combustion engine) capability too. The vehicle will use electric power first until such time it is depleted, at this point ICE kicks in (petrol/diesel). PHEV is a half-way house and reduces the dependency/vulnerability for drivers of needing to find a charging point urgently and is especially good for longer drives (300 miles+)
    • Hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) – Conventional hybrids (also known as HEV) utilise their fossil-fuelled engines to charge the (usually) fairly small electric battery as you drive. An HEV uses electricity as power at lower speed and switches to fossil fuel at higher speeds. There is no ability to plug the HEV into electricity supply, which tends to make this hybrid model cheaper to buy as it’s less technically complex
  • Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles – alternatively, there are vehicles, which use the much cleaner hydrogen as their fuel for power. The motion process involves hydrogen being converted from chemical to mechanical energy. This is achieved by reacting oxygen with hydrogen through a fuel cell, which drives an electric motor

Exploring the positives and negatives of buying each vehicle type

Positives for buying electric/hybrid models

Here are some positives relating to buying electric and hybrid models:

  • Environmentally-friendly – for many above all else a main reason to buy is for the environmental benefits. E-vehicles reduce the amount of carbon in the environment and also reduce noise pollution levels
  • Manufacturer discounts – many manufacturers periodically offer discounts on the initial capital outlay when buying an e-vehicle
  • Parking advantages – emissions-based charging (particularly in major urban areas) can make electric vehicles advantageous. In addition, some city centres have designated e-vehicle only parking spots, which can be beneficial where there is limited parking
    • Reduced running costs – running costs also should be considered as once purchased an electric/hybrid vehicle is much more cost-effective to operate:
      1. Lower servicing and maintenance costs – there are only really two technically complex areas of an e-vehicle, these are the battery and the electric motor. This dramatically reduces the servicing and maintenance costs compared to ICE vehicles (the engine alone has many components)
      2. Dramatically lower fuel costs – it’s much cheaper to fuel an electric or hybrid car as electricity is much cheaper than fossil fuels
      3. Rebates and incentives – it’s possible to save sometimes significant amounts of money from rebates and incentives from the government. These may also apply to parking charges too
    • Space economy – e-vehicles use up far less space than ICE models (as reported by Skoda). This gives manufacturers flexibility options with design. Larger models can be made smaller or more spacious interiors can be provided
    • Tax concessions and subsidies – similar to manufacturers many governments have offered subsidies on the upfront purchase of an e-vehicle. Additionally, there are a variety of tax concessions which have been offered

    The following benefits relate to buying hybrid models only:

    • Fuel options – with charging infrastructure emerging many owners are concerned about being dependent on electric-powered only vehicles. Hybrid vehicles give the best of both worlds with the ability to electrically charge as well as having petrol/diesel as a back-up in situations where electricity is depleted
An example of a designated electric vehicle and hybrid car parking space

An example of a designated electric vehicle and hybrid car parking space

Concerns and negatives for buying electric/hybrid models

Here are some concerns and negatives relating to buying electric and hybrid models:

  • Early adoption – The expected time for large-scale adoption of electric vehicles is expected to be around 2030, but this is still 3-4 buying cycles away for many vehicle owners. Buyers currently may feel that it’s too early to buy and why buy ahead of the main market adoption?
  • Premium models only – many manufacturers are currently producing top of the range models only, which obviously makes the cost of entry higher. This is expected to change as each year passes
  • Purchase price – the current purchase price of electric/PHEV hybrids is fairly uncompetitive. This is partially due to lower production volumes and also the fact it is a maturing technology
  • Resale price – this is often unattractive for electric/hybrids as the technology is advancing at such a pace that many models are semi-obsolete by the time of sale

Although, there are many similarities between hydrogen and electric/hybrid vehicles the fuel is quite different, so we have listed the pros and cons for hydrogen-fuelled vehicles below.

Positives for buying hydrogen fuelled models

Here are some positives relating to buying hydrogen models:

  • Environmentally-friendly – apart from water vapour there are no emissions from hydrogen fuelled vehicles. Additionally, hydrogen models are quieter to drive in the same way electric models are
  • Long driving range – most hydrogen powered vehicles have a driving range of 300+ miles, which beats electric vehicles and is comparable with fossil-fuelled models
  • Quick recharging – an entire tank of hydrogen can be recharged in just five minutes, which is much quicker than all the electric vehicles on the market
  • Fuel economy – they have about twice the fuel economy of fossil-fuelled vehicles
  • Abundance – Hydrogen is available in abundance and hydrogen fuel can be made from renewable sources
An illustration of how hydrogen refuelling works

An illustration of how hydrogen refuelling works

Concerns and negatives for buying hydrogen models

Here are some concerns and negatives relating to buying hydrogen models:

  • High purchase cost – as with electric/hybrids the initial purchase price of hydrogen fuelled vehicles is much higher. At the moment there is an early adopter’s levy, with owners paying for the R&D and higher-production costs due to low manufacturer volumes
  • Limited models to choose from – with Honda, Hyundai, Mercedes and Toyota being the main manufacturers in the market there is a lack of choice as most other manufacturers don’t have solutions yet. With many manufacturers choosing electric rather than hydrogen it’s doubtful that consumers will ever have a large choice if they opt for hydrogen
  • Refuelling issue – finding places to refuel can be a problem, with limited charging points currently
  • Onboard storage – hydrogen needs to be stored onboard at high pressure and takes up additional space
  • High fuel cost – currently hydrogen fuel is quite expensive, this gives minimal benefit compared to fossil fuels, albeit the fuel economy is much higher. As the hydrogen-fuelled vehicles market grows, the price of hydrogen fuel is expected to fall
  • Highly flammable – hydrogen is highly flammable, which can pose a problem following accidents
Fossil fuel fumes will become a thing of the past with electric vehicle adoption

Fossil fuel fumes will become a thing of the past with electric vehicle adoption

Electric vehicles undoubtedly will dominate the future

With announcements back in 2017 from the UK Government that from 2040 all petrol/diesel cars will be banned, undoubtedly, electric vehicles will dominate the future. We are now in a phase of long-term planning by governments, manufacturers and the service industry (e.g. repair centres, fuel stations, parts manufacturers, etc). In industries such as vehicle manufacturing, the move to electric vehicles is a major change and the ramp-up should be viewed as a 25-year change as opposed to one which can be completed within a decade.

We would encourage everybody to believe that the switch from ICE (internal combustion engines) to electric-powered vehicles is happening. It’s a slow process though and isn’t real yet for many consumers who buy new vehicles every few years. Although, many feel the revolution is in automotive, electric vehicle adoption will also occur in aerospace and aviation.

The Toyota Velfire is one example of a hybrid car available on the market

The Toyota Velfire is one example of a hybrid car available on the market

Will the COVID-19 Coronavirus have an impact on electric vehicle adoption?

It’s too early to say for sure at the moment. The impact of the COVID-19 Coronavirus is being assessed but if anything is likely to cause some delays in electric vehicle adoption. Automotive (as well as other sectors) have been hammered with manufacturers being forced to close plants and adopt social distancing.

Lower sales and manufacturing output are extremely likely to lead to reductions in future. Investment. It’s this future investment, which will drive the innovations and changes needed in the e-vehicle market to see increases in adoption.

With governments ravaged by extra costs due to the pandemic, it’s also unlikely that public investment will be available at previous levels. This is likely to cause an impact in areas such as discounts, rebates and also in the development of public charging infrastructure. Additionally, car sharing initiatives which are an important part of e mobility are also likely to be discouraged until such time as there are either a vaccine and/or successful treatments for the COVID-19 virus.

Contact SPI Lasers for additional information

Whatever the type of e-vehicle you have, an SPI fiber Laser will help within the manufacturing process, in areas such as cutting, welding, drilling, additive manufacturing and so much more. For additional clarification and to ask questions, call our team today. We are here to help, if you have enjoyed this article, also click here to receive ongoing updates.



Image Credits: Håkan Dahlström, Wikipedia, Noya Fields, Wikipedia, Lab Roots, and Wikipedia


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