Should I Switch To An Eco-Friendly Car?

An electric car charging at a public charging point

Nowadays, people are becoming more and more environmentally conscious—monitoring their carbon footprint, increasing their recycling and attempting to conserve Earth’s natural resources. With the volume of toxic chemicals being released into the atmosphere every day, there’s also a growing trend towards going green with vehicles. If you’re looking for ways to help the environment, then you might be asking the question: should I switch to an eco-friendly car?

We’ve put together a guide to eco-friendly cars to help answer this question. We’re going to discuss the different types, their pros and cons, not to mention ways you can make your own car more environmentally friendly. Read on to find out more!


Contents:


What are eco-friendly cars?

An environmentally-friendly car—otherwise known as an eco-friendly or green car—is a vehicle that uses alternative fuels or energy sources that enable it to release less carbon compounds into the air when it runs. With  transport being one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions—due to the toxic compounds released by petrol and diesel cars—eco-friendly cars are a viable way to reduce the damage inflicted on the environment.

Eco-friendly cars aren’t just better for the environment, they’re also better for your purse. These types of vehicles tend to be more fuel efficient—they’re not consuming as much fuel (if any), which means you’re not filling up at the petrol station as much as usual. Though these cars tend to be more expensive at face value, it can be worth it—we’ll delve further into why this is the case below. First, however, we’re going to look at the three main types of eco-friendly cars that you might want to consider if you’re looking to go green…


Types of eco-friendly cars

Hybrid cars

Toyota Prius Plug-in hybrid

One of the most popular types of eco-friendly cars available, hybrid cars are part fuel-driven and part electric. That is, they have two engines: one is powered by fuel and the other by electricity. Both energy sources are used alternatively, depending on the situation. When you’re driving up to 15mph, for example, your hybrid vehicle will only use the electrical motor—making it efficient for city driving.

Due to hybrid cars running on both fuel and electricity, they emit far less CO2 than petrol or diesel-powered vehicles. They also help you save on fuel costs, due to their ability to run partially on electricity. Additionally, hybrids have self-charging batteries, so unless you purchase a plug-in hybrid, it will charge itself without you having to get involved.

Advantages Disadvantages
  • They’re great for city-driving. When you’re driving at lower speeds or stop suddenly, they generate electricity.
  • Some hybrids aren’t as powerful as petrol or diesel engines.  This does, of course, depend on the model.
  • Lower emissions. With the combination of petrol/diesel and electricity, you can reduce your CO2 emissions
  • They’re expensive at face value. However, with the money you save on fuel, you end up making it back after a few years.
  • Less fuel consumption and dependence on fossil fuels. You aren’t consuming as much fuel as you would with a normal car.
  • High maintenance costs. If you need repairs to, say, one of the engines, you’re looking at a hefty price tag.
  • A regenerative braking system. Every time you brake, your battery starts to charge—eliminating the time you need to recharge.
  • Lower mileage. Depending on the model, you’re looking at lower mileage for long distances.

Electric cars

Smartcar electric car charging in Amsterdam

Another popular option for the environmentally-conscious, electric cars, unlike hybrids, run entirely on electricity. This means that instead of filling up your tank, you have to instead charge your vehicle to full power. Charging isn’t as complicated as it sounds—you can self-charge when you accelerate. Additionally, you can install your own charging station at home. These vehicles can be charged using a mains power supply in a fast-charge mode, in an hour or overnight.

Due to not using any fuel at all, electric cars don’t release CO2 into the air when you drive. That’s not to say they’re entirely guilt-free—the electricity has to come from somewhere, after all. If it’s from, say, a coal-burning power plant, it’s still adding to the pollution. It’s better than petrol or diesel-powered cars though!

Advantages Disadvantages
  • Zero emissions and fuel consumption. You’re cutting your emissions entirely and helping the environment—what’s not to like about electric cars?!
  • Limited driving range. Depending on the model, you’re looking at limited range. That being said, most people won’t tend to venture further than the limits anyway.
  • Charge at home. If you’re not a fan of petrol stations, you can simply charge your car at home overnight and be raring to go in the morning.
  • Lack of charging stations. Whilst you can set up your own station, you might struggle with finding a public charging station—though this will change in near future.
  • Low running costs. Whilst the upfront cost can be startling, you’re still saving—you don’t have to fork out for petrol anymore! You just need a quick charge.
  • Recharge time. Unlike petrol stations, you can’t recharge in a few minutes. Of course, some models can charge up to 80% in 30 minutes, so it’s not too bad.
  • Monetary incentives. Electric cars might be expensive, but you can take advantage of government grants to cut the cost.
  • Expensive to purchase. Grants aside, electric cars are still more expensive than traditional petrol/diesel-powered cars.

Biodiesel cars

Saab biopower car

Biodiesel is a vegetable oil and animal-based diesel that helps limit pollutant emissions—it doesn’t contain any lead and only a small amount of sulphur. It burns cleaner than regular diesel, making it a much safer alternative for the environment.

One of the biggest benefits of biodiesel is that it is man-made and easy to manufacture. If you’re already driving a diesel car, you can use biodiesel without having to make any major internal modifications. Whilst you won’t be able to fill up on biodiesel at your local petrol station, there are plenty of distributors across the UK, e.g., Cooke Fuels.

Advantages Disadvantages
  • Cleaner emissions. When biodiesel burns, it produces far less carbon compounds—making it a better alternative to petrol.
  • Low temperatures can cause the biodiesel to gel. The higher the vegetable oil content of the, the more viscous it becomes.
  • Naturally renewable fuel. Unlike fossil fuels, biodiesel is renewable. We’re constantly producing the material needed.
  • Biodiesel can cause problems in your engine, e.g., clogging the fuel filter and hardening the seals.
  • Old cars can be converted to use biodiesel. If you’re  currently using diesel, you can easily  switch between the two.
  • Less power—it produces 10% less power than regular fuel. As such, you end up using more to match the power of regular fuel.
  • Better source material. Petrol is a limited resource, but biofuel can be manufactured from crop waste and other byproducts.
  • More difficult to fill up. It’s not as simple as filling up at your local petrol station, plus, it can be costly to purchase.

Popular eco-friendly cars

We’re now going to take a look at five popular eco-friendly cars to give you a better idea of what these vehicles are capable of.

1. BMW i3

Screenshot of the BMW i3
Image source: bmw

Type: electric car
From £35,180.00

Powered by 170hp and 250Nm of torque and a 120Ah high-voltage battery, the BMW i3 offers drivers zero emissions and a range of up to 160 miles—not to mention a top driving speed of 92mph. A popular option for the environmentally conscious, the i3 also boasts an effortless acceleration from 0 to 62mph in only 7.3 seconds! Wondering where you can charge it? You can set up a charging station at home or make use of the growing number of charging stations scattered across the UK.

If you’re looking for a higher performance from your electric car, you can get a sportier edge with the BMW i3s—with a 184hp punch and a maximum torque of 270Nm. Whilst it has the same 160 mile range, it boasts a more athletic experience—moving from 0 to 62mph in 6.9 seconds, with a maximum speed of 99mph.

2. Toyota Prius

Screenshot of a Toyota Prius
Image source: Toyota

Type: hybrid car
From £24,245.00

Toyota has long since been one of the leading experts in the hybrid car industry, so it’s unsurprising to find them on this list. The Prius enables drivers to benefit from all of the efficiencies of a self-charging hybrid. You’ll hardly notice the transition between the electric and petrol modes, it’s just that seamless. And with an enhanced suspension and lower centre of gravity, drivers can enjoy a much smoother experience.

The Prius is one of the first cars in its class to benefit from an intelligent all-wheel drive system—AWD-i—giving power to all wheels for maximum control in low-grip conditions. Guess that makes driving in winter a bit easier!

3. Nissan LEAF

Screenshot of Nissan Leaf
Image source: Nissan

Type: electric car
From £27,995.00

As the number one electric vehicle sold in Europe in 2018, you can be assured Nissan LEAF is worth its salt. If range is something you worry about when it comes to electric cars, you’ll be more than happy with Nissan’s options—up to 168 miles on 40kwh with LEAF and up to 239 miles on 62kwh on LEAF e+. As with any other electric car, you can easily charge your Nissan LEAF at home or even at work.

With the Nissan e-Pedal, you can accelerate and decelerate with one pedal. If that wasn’t efficient enough, the LEAF also offers an assisted driving experience—with ProPILOT, Nissan LEAF accelerates, brakes and restarts with the flow of traffic. And with fewer moving parts involved, you’re looking at much lower maintenance costs.

4. Hyundai IONIQ

Screenshot of Hyundai IONIQ
Image source: Hyundai

Type: hybrid car
From £21,790.00

Another industry-leading hybrid vehicle, the Hyundai IONIQ is powered by a specially calibrated 1.6 litre GDI engine that delivers 150PS. With a 1.56kwh battery capacity, the electric motor comes with high torque and efficiency. The electric motor works with the petrol engine to improve fuel economy and lower CO2 emissions—you’re looking at 78.5MPG fuel consumption. Both energy sources work together to maximise acceleration when you need it. The IONIQ gives drivers a range of up to 700 miles!

The lithium-ion polymer battery has top charge and discharge characteristics that allow you to maximise electric driving and energy regeneration. If that’s not efficient enough for you, the IONIQ also offers Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) which efficiently picks the optimum gear for you.

5. Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

Screenshot of Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
Image source: Mitsubishi

Type: hybrid car
From £36,755.00

Last, but not least, we’ve got the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. Coming with a twin motor drive, the Outlander PHEV offers responsive acceleration, a quiet ride and top fuel economy. You’re looking at CO2 from 40.3g/km. With the EV power mode, you can drive on pure electric power for up to 28 miles, with near-silent driving and no exhaust emissions. The petrol engine starts to take over once you’re looking at high-speed motoring and steep hills.

Drivers can easily charge the Outlander PHEV at home or away—you can reach up to 80% battery capacity in just 25 minutes! It also reclaims energy from itself using regenerative braking.

In a move to encourage the public to purchase low-emission vehicles, the government offers grants for eligible vehicles that have CO2 emissions of less than 50g/km and can travel at least 112 km/70 miles without any emissions. The BMW i3, Hyundai IONIQ and Nissan LEAF all fall under Category 1, meaning you could save up to £3,500!

Should I switch to an eco-friendly car?

2017 show me tell me questions

If we’re taking a moral stance, then yes, you should switch to an eco-friendly car. We’re at the point where we need to cut back on the damage we’re inflicting on the environment exponentially. If you can’t be bothered dealing with public transport (who can?!) or car pools, an eco-friendly vehicle is the way you can make a difference.

Of course, we’re not always in a situation in which we can afford to fork out for something as expensive as a new car—and eco-friendly cars can be pretty pricey. That being said, with government grants and second-hand dealerships, there are plenty of ways to make it work.

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of switching to an eco-friendly car…

Pros: 

simple green tickYou’re helping the environment. Whether you opt for a hybrid, electric or biodiesel car, you’re still cutting back on your emissions.

simple green tickFinancial perks. With government grants and less fuel consumption (or none, if it’s an electric car), you’re reaping the rewards in the long term.

simple green tickLess dependence on fossil fuels. Not only are you reducing emissions, you’re also reducing the need for fossil fuels.

simple green tickHigher resale value. As we’ve said, eco-friendly cars are a growing trend, so if you’re not satisfied with your purchase, you can always try selling it at a higher price.

Cons: 

red cross clipart

Expensive at face value. The prices for hybrids and electric cars are pretty eye-watering. When you weigh it up long term, however, you end up making up the cost eventually.

red cross clipart

High maintenance costs. Whilst some of the engines can be sturdier, eco-friendly cars can also be expensive to repair—you might also struggle finding a specialist mechanic.

red cross clipart

Less power. Depending on the car type/model, you could be looking at a less powerful vehicle, e.g., superior for city driving but lacking on the motorways.

red cross clipartLack of availability. Depending on where you live, it can be difficult to find a local charging station or a place offering biodiesel.

Clearly, the lasting advantages of an eco-friendly car far outweighs any of the disadvantages you can think of. If you can’t make the switch to an eco-friendly car just yet, don’t worry—you can still help the environment with the car you’ve got now.

Let’s take a look at how you can make your own car eco-friendly without having to fork out a penny!


Make your car more eco-friendly

Close-up of car rear with plants nearby

1. Check your tyre pressure and inflate

If your tyres are under-inflated, they’re not rolling as efficiently as they could be. This means that your engine has to work harder to keep your vehicle moving. Consequently, you end up burning far more fuel than you should.

Not sure what pressure your tyres should be at? Check your car’s manual. You can inflate your tyres at any petrol station in the UK. You should aim to check your tyre pressure at least once a month.

2. Get rid of any extra weight

Another cause for excessive fuel consumption is heavy weight in your car. The heavier your car is, the more fuel it needs. As such, you should take some time to look at what you’ve got in your car—if you don’t need it, get rid.

You should aim to only keep essential items in your car. Even if it saves you just the tiniest bit of fuel, it will make a big difference in the long run.

3. Cut back on air conditioning

Despite the bad weather that plagues the UK, a lot of drivers tend to keep their air conditioning on full blast. As refreshing as your A/C is, it causes a lot of strain on your car’s electrical system—your engine, therefore, has to work a lot harder. And, yes, you guessed it, it ends up consuming more fuel.

A possible solution might be to keep your A/C at a low target level. Alternatively, maybe opt for an old-fashioned approach and crack open a window!

4. Think about how you’re driving

You can easily cut back on your fuel consumption just by changing the way that you drive. When you accelerate suddenly, for example, you end up burning far more fuel than you would have had you accelerated at a more sensible speed.

Let’s face it, you’re not in that much of a rush—so try to maintain a steady speed. Additionally, if you’re somewhere for more than a minute, don’t idle. Instead, switch off the engine until you need to start moving again.

5. Regular car maintenance

How many times have you needed to take your car into a repair shop for one issue, only to end up being told you’ve got a handful of other problems that need to be dealt with too? Instead of waiting to take your car in until you’ve actually got an issue, you should schedule regular car maintenance check-ups.

6. Be more efficient with your journeys

If you want a sure fire way to cut back on your fuel consumption, it’s pretty simple—think about where you need to go. If you’ve got multiple errands to run throughout the day, why not combine them into one longer drive?

Additionally, you can look into taking different routes to cut down the miles. If you’ve been using the same route on your commute into work, for example, see if you can find a shorter one.


FAQs

1. Why are eco-friendly cars so expensive?

Electric and hybrid cars tend to be more expensive because their electric car batteries cost more to make. They’re also more technologically advanced than traditional petrol or diesel cars. With the growing need for eco-friendly cars, however,  the price of these cars is sure to drop in the near future.

2. Will it save me money to buy an electric or hybrid car?

Whilst the upfront cost of the types of cars can be staggering, you’re saving money in the long run. You’re not spending as much fuel if you’re driving a hybrid, or any at all if you opt for an electric car. If you buy a Category 1 car, you get a grant and an exemption from road tax.

3. Is it better for the environment to keep an older car rather than buying a new one?

If you’re planning on driving your petrol or diesel-powered car until it falls apart, you might want to give it a rethink. Whilst you can implement our tips on making your car more environmentally friendly, you’re still releasing CO2 emissions into the atmosphere. Buying an eco-friendly car, on the other hand, will do more for the environment.

4. How do I reduce my carbon emissions when driving?

For starters, try paying attention to your driving style. If you find yourself accelerating more than you need to, try and cut back—avoid idling if you can. Carry out regular maintenance checks with your car and look closely at your tyres to see if they need inflating. If you can, avoid unnecessary trips or combine your journeys.

5. Are smaller engines more environmentally friendly?

It depends. As a rule of thumb, smaller cars tend to be more fuel efficient and emit less CO2. However, if you’ve got a particularly heavy car, your small engine will have to work harder to get up to speed—increasing your fuel consumption.

6. How do hybrid cars work?

Instead of using just a fuel-driven engine, hybrids use two: a fuel-driven engine and an electric motor. This decreases your fuel consumption and carbon emissions. Hybrids also decide when to use either energy source, e.g., the electric motor for city driving.

7. Do hybrid cars need to be charged? 

With most hybrids, you won’t need to worry about charging, as their batteries are self-charging—when they run low, excess power from the engine charges it back up. With plug-in hybrids, batteries can self-charge and also be charged via an outlet.

8. How often do hybrid batteries need replacing and can they be recycled? 

Typically speaking, you won’t ever have to worry about replacing your hybrid’s battery—it’s likely to last for the duration of the car’s lifetime. These batteries can also be recycled when they reach the end of their life.

9. If I run out of fuel, can I use electricity to drive? 

No. Whilst your hybrid can run solely on electricity for a certain amount of time, it’s only when you’ve got fuel. Running on electricity without fuel can cause severe damage to your car, so avoid doing so.

10. Are hybrids safe? 

As with any other type of car, every effort has been made to ensure hybrids are as safe to drive as possible. They have the same features as petrol/diesel-powered vehicles, including ABS (Anti-Lock Braking), EBD (Electronic Brakeforce Distribution) and ESC (Electronic Stability Control).

11. How do electric cars work? 

As the name suggests, electric cars are powered by electric motors using rechargeable batteries. They have zero emissions, as they don’t need fuel to run.

12. How do I charge my electric car and how often? 

You can easily charge your electric car at home. Most of them can be plugged into a typical 240V household plug. Some, however, will advise you set up a home charging point. How often you need to charge your car will depend on the model. It doesn’t take long to charge most electric cars, however, so you could easily do it overnight or even as you’re getting ready in the morning.

13. How far will an electric car get me? 

It depends entirely on the car model. The Nissan LEAF, for example, can take you up to 160 miles on a full battery, whilst the LEAF e+ can take you up to 239 miles. If you tend to drive for long distances, you’ll want to shop around and see which cars get you the furthest.

14. How long do electric car batteries last? 

Like any battery, the ones in electric cars will eventually diminish with time. You’re looking at around 5-8 years with most electric cars, though it does, of course, depend on numerous factors.

15. Are electric cars safe?

As with any other type of car, manufacturers have made every attempt to ensure electric cars meet the right safety requirements.

By Bethany Hall

Whether you’re a learner or a pro driver, Bethany is here to help. From defensive driving to the Highway Code, she’ll tell you everything you need know about driving. If she’s not on the road, you’ll probably find Bethany with her head in a book or binge-watching the latest TV show.