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  • Emma Hallett

Hybrid vehicles - a step to the future for driving lessons

When I needed to replace my tuition car, my first thought was to get a self-charging hybrid. Although electric cars (EV) are becoming more common, a good car with a decent range is still expensive and charging points are sometimes difficult to find. Similar challenges can be found with plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) although at least there is the back up of the petrol engine when required. So I settled on a Toyota, mainly because of reliability and they have been making hybrids for over 20 years. There are 'mild hybrids' available on the market, but these are like a petrol car with an electric motor to provide extra power, I wanted a car that could drive like an EV.

The idea behind self-charging hybrids is to use the battery whenever possible, generally when accelerating very gently and when travelling downhill. When driving uphill or when more power is needed, the petrol engine will kick in. They sound different to petrol or diesel automatics as there's no gear changes even when driving on the petrol engine. When in EV mode, the car makes a slight whining noise. Generally, the car will switch between the two modes automatically, although there is a button to put it into EV mode and it should stay there unless heavy acceleration is required.

You should be able to get more miles per gallon in a hybrid car. Although the cars cost most, you need to consider petrol savings along the way. Toyota have an app that connects to the car and tracks each journey. It produces a score out of 100 to tell you how efficiently you have driven as well as giving feedback on what you've done well and how to improve. It also tells you how much of the journey was done in EV mode. Effectively this is 'free' as you are not paying to charge the battery. In a pure EV or a PHEV, you need to plug it in to charge, costs vary depending on the price of electricity and where you charge it. Self-charging hybrids recharge the battery through regenerative braking. This happens when you come off the accelerator pedal or brake. Generally, the earlier you do this, the better it recharges the battery, so planning ahead to brake early and gently will get you those higher scores on the app. Safety always takes priority and if you need to brake heavily then do so! Toyota have an option in the infotainment system to show how much charge the battery is holding and there's a dial on the dashboard that tells you whether you are charging the battery, driving in eco mode (being fuel efficient) or using power (petrol). I find this can be distracting so ensure you are still aware of the road and hazards.

Remember, whenever you are driving an EV or hybrid in EV mode, the vehicle will not sound like a vehicle to other road users. Although they have sounds added in for pedestrians, they may not realise what the noise relates to.

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