Electric and Hybrid Cars – The Wave of The Future

It seems like we’ve been waiting forever for electric cars to come along, but after more false starts than you’ll see at the London Olympics this year, it looks like the electric car is finally here to stay.

Now, we need to start with some boring terminology: A true electric car (EV, for Electric Vehicle) has no petrol engine as backup, so you are reliant on the batteries having enough charge to get you to where you need to go. The Nissan Leaf is the best-known (and best) electric car currently on sale.

A regular hybrid uses an electric motor and/or a petrol motor, depending on the circumstances. You don’t plug it into a wall socket as the batteries charge while you are driving. A typical journey, even a short one, will use both electric and petrol power to drive the wheels. The Toyota Prius is the most popular and best-known hybrid on sale around the world.

A plug-in hybrid, “range-extending” electric car, is technically more of a fancy hybrid than a true EV although it drives more like an EV than a regular hybrid. In practice it might be a huge difference or none at all, depending on how you use the car. A range-extender, or plug-in hybrid as it’s more commonly known, has a petrol engine which can be used to power the electric motor once the batteries have drained, but the petrol engine does not directly drive the wheels*. The Vauxhall Ampera/Chevrolet Volt twins are the leading example of this type of car, and they claim an urban fuel consumption of 300mpg (yep, that’s three hundred. Not a typo!)

A car running on an electric motor is usually very quiet (eerie silence or a distant hum instead of a clearly audible petrol engine) and smooth (no vibrations from engine or gearbox). The response from the car away from rest is both immediate and powerful, as electric motors generate huge amounts of torque instantly. They’re quiet from the outside to, to such an extent that the EU is considering making audible warnings compulsory in the future as pedestrians simply won’t hear an electric car coming.

In terms of exciting handling, electric cars are usually not brilliant, it must be said. They tend to be very heavy and usually run tyres & wheels more beneficial for economy than handling. But as a commuter vehicle around town, they are zippy and efficient. Plus they generate less noise, heat and pollution into the street so a traffic jam of Nissan Leafs in the city would be a lot more pleasant for passing pedestrians.

The batteries on a typical electric car only give it enough range for a few miles (although a true EV will have a bigger battery pack as it doesn’t have to fit a petrol engine & fuel tank as well), so the cars use various means to charge the battery while driving. Usually this involves converting kinetic energy from coasting and braking to electric energy to store in the batteries. The Fisker Karma even has solar cells in its roof to charge the batteries as well.

However, a longer journey will inevitably mean that the batteries are drained. In a fully electric car that means you have to stop and charge the batteries, so hopefully you parked near a power socket somewhere and have several hours to find something else to do. In a hybrid, the petrol engine will start up to provide the power. In a regular hybrid like a Prius, the car effectively becomes an ordinary petrol car, albeit with a fairly underpowered engine pushing a heavy car around so it’s not swift. In a ‘range extender’ like the Ampera/Volt, the petrol engine provides energy to the electric motor to drive the wheels, which is more efficient in both performance and economy. Depending on how you’re driving, any spare energy from the petrol engine can be used to charge up the batteries again, so the car may switch back to electric power once charging is complete.

So what does this mean in the real world?

Well, how much of the following driving do you do? We’re assuming here that the batteries are fully charged when you set off.

Short trips (<50 miles between charges).

These sort of journeys are ideal for electric cars and plug-in hybrids, as the batteries will cope with the whole journey and also get some charge while you drive. A regular hybrid will still need to use the petrol engine, although how much depends on how you drive it and how much charging it is able to get along the way.

Medium trips (50-100 miles between charges).

These are the sorts of trips that give EV drivers plenty of stress, as the traffic conditions may mean you run out of juice before you make it to your charging point. A plug-in hybrid or regular hybrid will be fine because they can call on the petrol engine. In a regular hybrid, this means the car will be petrol powered for most of the journey. In a plug-in hybrid, it will be mainly electric with the petrol engine kicking in to top up the batteries if needed late in the journey.

Longer trips (100+ miles between charges)

Not feasible in a fully-electric car, as you will almost certainly run out of electricity before you get there. The regular hybrid is basically a petrol car for almost the whole journey and the plug-in hybrid is majority electric but supplemented by petrol in a far more efficient way than a regular hybrid.

The pros and cons:

Let’s summarise the three types of electrically-powered cars:

Regular hybrid (eg – Toyota Prius)

PROS: cheaper, no charging required, no range anxiety, regular petrol engine makes it feel like a regular petrol car

CONS: only very short journeys (a few miles at best) will be fully electric, small battery pack and weak petrol engine means relatively poor performance compared to a normal petrol car or a fully electric car, poor economy when driven hard (like most Prius minicabs in London…), not very spacious for passengers and luggage due to carrying petrol and electric powertrains in one car

Fully electric car (EV) (eg – Nissan Leaf)

PROS: powerful electric motor gives much better performance than a regular hybrid, larger battery pack means longer electric running, no petrol engine reduces weight and frees up a lot of space, £5000 government rebate, electricity is cheaper and usually less polluting than petrol, privileged parking spaces in certain public places

CONS: Still expensive despite rebate, minimal range capability due to lack of petrol engine backup, resulting range anxiety is a real issue for drivers, question marks over battery life, technology advances will make next generation massively better and hurt resale value, some driving adaptation required, lengthy recharging required after even a moderate drive

Plug-in Hybrid / range-extender (eg – Vauxhall Ampera)

PROS: powerful electric motor and backup petrol engine give best combination of performance and range, most journeys will be fully electric which is cheaper than petrol, no range anxiety, privileged parking spaces in certain public places

CONS: Very expensive despite rebate, question marks over battery life and resale value, wall socket charging is still slow, lack of space and very heavy due to having petrol engine and fuel tank as well as electric motor and batteries.

Electric Car Economics – is it all worth it?

For most people, an electric vehicle is difficult to justify on pure hard-headed economics. Even with a £5,000 rebate from the government, an electric car is expensive. A Nissan Leaf starts at £31,000, so after the government gives you £5K you have spent £26K on a car which would be probably worth about £15K if it had a normal petrol engine. That could conceivably buy you a decade’s worth of fuel! And there are still question marks hovering over the long-term reliability of batteries and resale value, which may bite you hard somewhere down the line

Electric Cars and the Environment

Buying a hybrid or electric car because you think you’re helping the environment may not be helping that cause as much as you think, if at all. Producing car batteries is a dirty and complicated process, and the net result is that there is a significantly higher environmental impact in building an electric or hybrid car than building a regular petrol or diesel car. So you’re starting behind the environmental eight-ball before you’ve even driven you new green car.

Beware of “zero emissions” claims about electric vehicles, because most electricity still comes from fossil fuel sources (like gas or coal) rather than renewable sources, so you are still polluting the atmosphere when you drive, albeit not as much and the effects are not as noticeable to you. If you have your own solar panels or wind farm to power your car, this is much more environmentally friendly.

Range anxiety

The biggest electric car turn-off for car buyers (other than the high purchase price) is the joint problem of very limited range and very slow recharging. In a petrol or diesel car, you can drive for a few hundred miles, pull into a petrol station and five minutes later you are ready to drive for another few hundred miles. In an electric car, you drive for 50-100 miles, then have to stop and charge it for several hours to drive another 50-100 miles.

If you only take short journeys and can keep the car plugged in whenever it stops (usually at home or work), this may never be a problem. But you can’t expect to jump in the car and drive a couple of hundred miles, or get away with forgetting to plug the car in overnight after a journey. You have to be much more disciplined in terms of planning your driving, and allow for recharging. Away from home this is still a big problem as there are relatively few power sockets available in public parking areas for you to use.

A plug-in hybrid like the Vauxhall Ampera/Chevrolet Volt gets around the range anxiety problem, as does a normal hybrid like a Toyota Prius, but you are carting a petrol engine (and fuel) around all the time which you may not need, adding hundreds of kilos of weight and taking up lots of space, so it’s a compromise.

So as you can see from all of the above, it’s not at all straightforward. You need to carefully consider what sort of driving you will be doing and what you need your car to be able to do.

*there is a complicated technical argument about whether the Ampera/Volt’s petrol engine directly drives the wheels under certain circumstances, but it’s really boring and doesn’t really make any difference to how the car drives.

Stuart Masson is founder and owner of The Car Expert, a London-based independent and impartial car buying agency for anyone looking to buy a new or used car.

Originally from Australia, Stuart has had a passion for cars and the automotive industry for nearly thirty years, and has spent the last seven years working in the automotive retail industry, both in Australia and in London.

Stuart has combined his extensive knowledge of all things car-related with his own experience of selling cars and delivering high levels of customer satisfaction to bring a unique and personal car buying agency to London. The Car Expert offers specific and tailored advice for anyone looking for a new or used car in London.

Car Night Driving Tips (Tricks, Tips and Driving Guide for Beginners)

STAY CALM AND FEARLESS

Have a relaxed mindset, and never panic during your night driving. Being fearless and sticking onto the road rules would make you half a way through the journey. We have seen some new drivers, who panic in some situations causing them to applying break forcefully, shaking the gear leaver to know in which number of gear they are in or clicking the viper blades or indicators coming in action when they panic. Try not to be that, stay calm and do your actions.

Keep your windshield clean. Remove off the stains, dried drops, smudges, finger prints, dust and greasy matters to have a clear vision of the road in the night driving glare. First, lift the vipers from the bonnet using your hand and de-dust it, then pour a sufficient amount of water all over the windshield and allow draining. Now, use your viper gear to clean the windshield by squeezing the detergents stored under the hood. Following these steps will make you to avoid mild scratches on your wind glasses and have a clear vision on the road.

Applying the viper as such to clean the windshield may swipe up the dirt and mud particles accumulated around the blades and can cause permanent scratches on your windshield.

GLARY NIGHT VISION AT NIGHT DRIVING

Additional care should be paid for car driving, especially by the beginners to moderate skilled drivers during night times, than during the day. Driving the car at night times seems to be a scary part for many drivers due to the glary vision of the opposite vehicle that leads them blind for some microseconds when passing by. Keep in mind, glary visions are the main dangers of driving at night.

For this, avoid seeing the light beams of the opposite vehicle and concentrate on the road space required for the lively movement of your car during the exact crossing time of the opposite vehicle. While crossing, if you are not sure about the road, don’t apply, but be ready to pedal on the brake, particularly when you travel on the road where you handled some patches and damages already.

LOW/HIGH BEAM LEVER

Use your high and low beam indicator wisely. Use high beams at night driving only when you see no cars on the opposite side. Flipping from low to high beam for a while can actually help you in finding the pot holes, humps, broken ridges and the damaged roads even at long distance with a shadowed vision.

Pull down the high beam to low level to make your nearby road visible while you pass the opposite vehicle on the same road. This on the other hand, indicates the opposite vehicle driver to do the same, so that both the drivers may have a better vision in low beam (some drivers don’t obey this and no need to worry about it). If you head other vehicles coming opposite continuously, try to be in the low beam position. This will help the opposite driver to have his vision properly without your high beam.

KEEP YOUR VISION LONG

Keep your eye sights long to the end of the road covering almost all the area of your road. Try to understand this. When you drive in dark, try to keep your sight sticking to the regions as your car head lamps explore new areas of the roads. Actually, this will help us to have some time to react when we find some abnormalities on the roads like, humps, potholes, speed breakers and etc.

PARKING LIGHT FOR ROUGH ROADS

Roads are always associated with patches and damages contributing to small to large damages to the vehicle. In some bad cases, a neat, smooth road ends all of a sudden and continues to be a bad, damaged roads with pits and hard rocks. This is often faced during the night driving time causing the car more vulnerable to hurt, especially when you drive at a constant high speed. When you face such situation, slowing your car immediately may harm your car, as the vehicles following you don’t expect this from you. In such cases, switch your parking light in one hand and this can indicate the drivers coming behind you to control their speed without hitting your car’s back.

I have tried this many a time where I felt safe.

Especially, when you lead on a road followed by three or four vehicles behind you at constant speed wouldn’t expect you to stop or slowing suddenly for a bad scenario in the middle of the road unexpectedly. Sometimes running your car on the damages roads is better than getting hit by the rear following vehicles.

If you want to stop your car crisply in such cases, cut down your speed from 100 km/h till it reaches to 60-50km/h and release the brake and re-press the brake pedal hardly once again will make your car stop safely. Not to harm your co-passengers, give signal to your passengers on emergency braking.

SLEEPY DRIVERS

Sleepy drivers are really the dangerous giant in the roads of both day and night driving whom we need to get rid of. But more often, the vulnerability is higher at night times due to less traffic and perfect time to sleep, especially for those who are tired of driving from long distance. Even research has been done on this and found that tiresome drivers take micro sleep for 6 to 10 seconds without their knowledge.

Giving a short horn during overtakes, particularly for long vehicles like trucks, lorry, buses and etc., would add another layer of safety for you. Pressing the horn for twice would make the truck driver to have a notice on you and your activities.

OVERTAKE USING OTHER CAR WINDSHIELD

Sometimes we see groups of vehicles flocks together on overtaking heavy loaded or long vehicles. In such situations, based on the chance of crossing one another, you may have to remain in the flock by driving at slow speed for a while. Later the group gets disperse as vehicles move ahead overtaking one after another. In such cases, we might continue to stay in the same lane, while one or two other vehicles of same lane direction would move to the opposite lane to overtake. If you are among the one behind the vehicle travelling in the opposite lane, it is more responsible job for you to have your safety.

Sometimes the overtaking vehicle would come back into its own lane, while heading another vehicle on the opposite lane. Also, the overtaking driver may have time and space only for his vehicle to pass on, where you might end up in trouble following him on the opposite lane. This generally happens to many drivers when they lose their patience in staying in the flock of vehicles for some time. During overtakes, as you have a vehicle before you, try to see through his windshield to get an idea about the opposite lane vehicle. This can actually help you to have some extra time to decide to slow down or coming back to your lane again

SHORT HORN SOUNDS

Give short horns at regular intervals (pom pom pom) than pressing the horn to give a long press (poooooooom). This might sound funny, but it actually works. Especially, when we get in contact with other roads passing across or the road that connects to the highways. Giving such short horns would make the people to notice about your car coming being ready to cross the road.

Some roads are broad for long distance and later divides into two roads, while a short half a meter height divider separates two roads which has blurred marking or with no reflector stickers. This type of dividers is risky specifically when they start after coming down from a bridge. All kinds of such problems are not such a big problem in daylight, however, in the night driving, especially when we travel on the new roads, it is highly important. So beware of short divider.

TURNING ROADS AND BAD CURVES

Turning roads are actually a trap for us, it seems simpler than they actually appear. This is not about the hair-pin bending where we would not be at a pace of speed.
When you don’t get the vision of the bending road, for sure be alert and bring the speed down is on the safer side. Never misjudge the road curve for our safety measures. At times, some open land roads have some treats like, that we might not know whether the road bends to the right or left until you reach closure. Make sure you stick on to the lane and pull down the speed in such situation without being panic.

EMPTY WATER BOTTLE

Having juices and beverages on travel might add a great value for the journey, however small bottles of less than a litre may cause some trouble if it is on the floor unnoticed in dim light, as they may run in between the three pedals. But no need to remember a horror scene whenever you see a pet bottle in the car, rather just keep an eye on them when you are handling them.

BE A REAL HERO

When you feel sleepy, never hesitate to leave the driver’s seat for the sake prestige or fame. A real driver never takes chances in collapsing the whole happy journey or the fun of driving a car. Feeling tired and sleepy after a long continuous drive is actually a human nature and some of us really feel shame telling we feel sleepy and handing over the car to our spouse or friends. Most accidents happening at night time are higher due to lack of sleep of the drivers which is bad for us and others too.

How to Buy Used Cars? A Definitive Guide to Buy an Excellent Used Car Without Overpaying

Before we answer this commonly asked question, just think about what is better for you. It is obvious that you have 2 options; a brand-new car or a used car. As a well known fact, buying a brand-new car can make you lose some money because the price of the brand-new car will be depreciated as soon as you buy that new car, but buying a used car can make you avoid that depreciation.

With a large selection of used cars nowadays, there is no greater value than buying a used car. However, it is also the highest risk, especially if you have no idea about what you should do to get the best deal without getting scammed by the unscrupulous people who are ready to cheat you. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you arm yourself with all the needed research and collecting the most possible information about the specific used car you wish to buy.

Buying a used vehicle is a big challenge, especially if you have no idea about the car you are going to buy, so it’s highly recommended that you take your time to collect the needed information and research via the internet to arm yourself before going into the battle of buying used cars. To avoid the pitfalls of buying used cars, do your research online and through multiple dealerships and used car lots.

According to my research there are easy, but powerful steps that will enable you to buy the used car you need. Read them carefully and imagine yourself doing them while reading to memorize them quickly and to be able to implement them effectively in the real life to get the best deal like never before.

Consider the benefits of buying a used car

According to the experts at Kelly Blue Book, “In three years a brand-new car could depreciate by as much as 73 percent of its value. At the best it will retain only 62 percent of its value after three years. That’s one major advantage to buying a used car.”. Therefore, why do you throw money away with buying a brand-new car while you can get a high-quality and recent model used car.

Here are some other good reasons that encourage you to do that:

Skillful used car buyer can explore bigger deals.

Certified used cars are widely being sold nowadays, such as certified pre-owned cars which you can purchase with peace of mind because they have been thoroughly inspected and are covered by warranties.

Used cars are now more reliable than ever before.

Used cars from 1 to 3 years old are generally still covered by factory warranty.

You can find the history of the used car by using the car VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) and by using the vehicle history report. And you can get that report easily from CARFAX or Autocheck.

Online, you can check the safety ratings and crash tests for almost any used car.

Set a budget for your purchase

Next, you will need to consider how to finance the car before you go for shopping. Use online tools to help you with that and make a financial plan that suits your budget. Experts at edmunds.com say “Make sure that your monthly payment does not exceed 20 percent of your salary”. It is essential to see how much your specific car really costs. Tools like True Market Value (TMV), True Cost to Own (TCO) on edmunds.com and website like kbb.com will help you with that.

By using affordability calculator and other online calculators, you can determine how much you can pay as a monthly payment. Determine how much you can pay as a down payment for the car if you are going to take out a car loan. It is important to realize that you will not pay only the car price, but you should also consider the other costs of vehicle ownership, such as insurance rates, extended warranties, maintenance, and fuel costs.

There are two ways to buy a used car; either you pay cash or you take out a loan. Taking a loan to buy a car is also called financing the car. You can finance for your used car through a bank, online lender, credit union, or a dealer. It is highly recommended that you finance through the first three, especially bank and online lender.

Choose the right used car

Used car buying has become very popular nowadays, so you will find a large selection of car models to choose from. Search on T.V, magazines, internet or at used car dealerships. Consult friends or relatives. Nowadays the Internet has become the most valuable tool. You can research the large selection of different car models and prices.

Make a list of several used car models that you are interested in and then narrow your list down to 3 or 4 cars. Before you take your list of preferred cars and go to the dealership or private party to purchase, research the car and collect as much information about the car as you can to arm yourself with all the needed knowledge that will save you money and make you get the great deal without getting scammed.

Before you decide on the car model, you should decide whether you will pay the price of the car in cash or you will finance on the car and pay monthly payments. Ask yourself does that car suit your needs? How big you want the car? Does it have headroom and legroom for you and the other passengers? How many passengers will ride in it? Do you need cargo room or towing capacity?

Once you have decided the right model or body style that is excellent for you, you should start collecting detailed information about that specific used car using its VIN. The VIN is included in many online car listings. Websites such as CARFAX OR Autocheck can help you do so easily. Use this VIN to get the vehicle history report which is vital to know the overall condition and history of the car. You will know whether that specific car has ever been totaled, flooded, stolen or whether the odometer has been rolled back.Those are essential information when you consider buying used cars.

If you want to save money, read the consumer reports and car reviews of the model that you are interested in. Compare Kelly Blue Book values, research resale values. By doing your research up front, you can avoid any model if it has a potential issue.

Best places to find used cars

There are a lot of places where you can find used cars, such as online websites, CarMax, dealerships, Auctions, and private party. Each place has its own pros and cons.The certified pre-owned cars are the most expensive used cars. If you want to know more about them you can check out the certified pre-owned vehicle programs at edmunds.com. Make sure that you do not buy a lemon used car.

Test drive and inspect the used car

Test driving and inspecting the used car that you have decided to buy is a very important factor in determining whether or not you proceed with your purchase, you may keep this vehicle for years to come, so make sure that the car is reliable and high performance. Try it in different roads to explore any potential problems you may find later, after you will have bought it.

After you collected the necessary information about the car, contact the seller and arrange an appointment to test drive the used car.When you go to test drive the car, bring along a mechanic because it is highly recommended that you take a mechanic with you to inspect the used car.

When you test drive the car, make sure that the engine is cold because doing that will show you whether there are any chronic issues or not. Bear in mind that it is your chance to test the car, so take your time to judge whether it is a good fit and it is in a good condition or not. Consider the following:

How does it feel when you drive the car?

How does it feel on bumpy roads?

Does the car have the acceleration levels you want?

What about the suspension, is it comfortable and even?

Does the car pull to one side or another or not? If it pulls, so it may be a problem with alignment or brake. Consider trying the brake.

Does the car inside have enough headroom and legroom for everyone who will ride?

While you are driving turn off the radio or C.D player to focus on the driving experience and to be able to hear any unusual noise especially from the engine.

Make sure that you get the service records from the seller or dealer. Stay away from the used cars that have been in a serious accident or that have been undergoing major repair work such as engine overhauls, valve jobs or transmission rebuilds. You should also check the VIN of the car, it is located in many places on the car depending on the car model. Make sure that all of the VIN plates on the car are matched not mismatched. Take a trusted mechanic with you to check things more accurately and professionally for you. If it is a CPO (certified pre-owned car) there is no reason to take a mechanic with you because those kinds of cars have undergone a thorough inspection before they have been brought for sale.

Negotiate the price

Your negotiation will largely depend on your research and the information that you have collected from famous car websites and dealerships. Stick to the prices that you have on hand in your list and show the price quotes to the dealer or the private seller to make them feel that you are educated buyer, so they cannot overprice the used car.

Read carefully before you sign

Before you sign, read carefully the clauses of the contract. It is recommended that you take a lawyer with you to finalize the paperwork for you. Avoid signing “as is” when buying a used car, because once you sign that, any problem with the car becomes yours. If you have to do that, make sure that you researched the information and got the Vehicle History Report on the used car. Make sure that any promises are written not just spoken.

Finally, by doing the above steps, you will become the educated buyer who knows exactly how to buy an excellent used car and how much you can expect to pay for it.