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To understand what a Plug-in hybrid is, it’s necessary to know what a straightforward hybrid is.

This almost always refers to a petrol-electric combination where the vehicle uses electricity stored in batteries and petrol. These usually charge their own batteries using the petrol engine.

It may be that is all the petrol engine does – charge the batteries to power the electric motors. In other types, the petrol motor drives the wheels directly, but an additional battery/motor combination adds some electric drive.

Generally, hybrids run on electric up to a certain speed – typically 20-30mph – before the petrol engine cuts in powering the car and adding charge to the batteries.

This means that in congested cities and traffic jams, the car can bumble along for a period of time on its electric power until the charge runs out.

Then there are plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) and these can be plugged-in to the national grid via a cable, as with an electric car.

The PHEV uses the electric motor as the main power source, and uses the internal combustion engine as a type of generator, which kicks in when the battery reaches a predetermined state of charge (SOC).

The main difference between a hybrid and a PHEV, is the way in which the vehicle is electrically powered. A hybrid creates its own electricity through regenerative braking systems, while a PHEV a plugged directly into the electric grid.

However, there is no requirement to plug the car in and many owners chose not to although using the engine to charge the battery each time can have an adverse effect on fuel consumption.

This will charge the car’s batteries, enabling some electric-only range of between 20 and 40 miles and so reducing the amount of petrol used over longer journeys.

This in turn reduces the cost per mile as well as the overall exhaust emissions of the car.

The main reason for using a PHEV is to reduce the amount of petrol you use – there are very few diesel hybrids available due to the higher cost of manufacturing them.

Another reason is to be able to drive without emitting any pollution for short distances.

There are in excess of 50 hybrid cars currently on sale in the UK, small, medium and large – right up to a £150,000 supercar.

So, what’s the benefit of making the switch to PHEVs for SMEs and fleet managers?

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With lower running costs and reduced emissions a switch to electrified cars and vans should be an easy decision for any SME.

To help drive uptake of plug-in hybrid cars, the government offers a number of grants which can help offset the initial cost. You can get a discount on the price of brand new low-emission vehicles through a grant the government gives to vehicle dealerships and manufacturers.

You do not need to do anything if you want to buy one of these vehicles – the dealer will include the value of the grant in the vehicle’s price.

The maximum grant available for cars is £3,500.

When it comes to charging, there are grants for that too. The Workplace Charging Scheme (WCS) provides eligible businesses up to £300 towards the purchase and installation cost of each charging connection, up to a limit of 20, meaning employees can make the most of charging while at work.

For those that use company cars, the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme (EVHS) gives up to £500 toward the cost of installing a dedicated home charge point.

As well as fuel savings when running on electric power, there also an effect on emissions which in turn has an effect on Benefit in Kind tax rates, congestions charges and low emission zone charges.

Across a fleet, saving can add up significantly. According to research conducted by Lex Autolease in 2017 a business with a fleet of just 10 cars can save £14,000 a year by making the switch to either pure electric or plug-in hybrids.

To help more businesses realise the benefits of adding electrified cars and vans to their fleets, Go Ultra Low has a Companies initiative.

Making the switch to electric can deliver significant savings for SMEs, although financials are not the only benefit.

SMEs also have the opportunity to make a substantial contribution to UK emission targets and their own sustainability goals, as the evidence shows 700,000 UK motorists would make the switch to electric if given the chance by their employers.
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Chris Wright
Chris Wright has been covering the automotive industry nationally and internationally for 30 years. Following spells with consumer titles he became News Editor of Automotive Management (AM), Editor of Automotive International, International Editor for Detroit-based Automotive News, and Editor of Dealer Update. He has also co-authored several FT Management Reports and contributes regularly to Justauto.com

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