Think green

A Hybrid Car is a vehicle that uses two or more distinct power sources to propel the vehicle.

Insuring a hybrid for less

In 1999, the two-door Honda Insight was the first hybrid automobile to hit the American market. Since then, the Toyota Prius has become the most popular hybrid in the world, with 139,000 models sold in 2009 in America alone.

But there is still a reluctance to go hybrid. Part of it is simply resistance to change. Many consumers also often express concern about the safety and reliability of hybrids, and wonder if the improved fuel economy is worth the high cost of the vehicle. So are hybrid cars more expensive to insure than conventional automobiles?

The short answer to this question is that, yes, hybrid cars are more expensive to insure than the average automobile. In 2009, the website looked at car insurance quotes and found that of the top 20 best-selling vehicles in the United States, the Toyota Prius had the seventh highest average insurance premium.

For a single male driver, aged 40, who owns his own home and car, holds a bachelor’s degree, and has no accidents or driving convictions, the average premium was around £1300 for the Prius, compared to £1100 for the Honda Odyssey, the most cheaply-insured vehicle on the list. Interestingly, though, the reasons for these higher premiums have very little to do with the specific fact that the Prius is a hybrid and more to do with the general characteristics of smaller and more expensive cars.

Hybrids do typically cost more to insure than the average automobile. For the most part, however, this isn’t because of any characteristic unique to hybrids. Higher insurance premiums are generally a result of qualities common more expensive smaller cars.

Smaller cars are generally more expensive to insure for two reasons: their size and the tendencies of their drivers. Given the number of 18-wheelers, large trucks and SUVs on today’s highways, smaller cars can be hard to see, increasing their chances of having a wreck. People who are trying to save money on long daily commutes also drive small cars, meaning they’re on the road more and therefore at greater risk of an accident. Add the fragile materials typically used for the body construction of small cars, and the result is often higher premiums.

Another factor that increases the expense of hybrid car insurance is the cost of the car itself. Hybrids are loaded with the latest technology, a quality that not only boosts its fuel economy, but also its sticker price.

A hybrid’s modern components also make it more expensive to repair. Simple maintenance, like oil changes, brake pad replacement and tire rotation, can be done at any repair shop, but more advanced problems will usually have to be fixed by a trained mechanic at the dealer.

The bottom line is that whether your car cost a lot because of leather seats and a sunroof or a hybrid drive train, any car with more expensive features is going to cost more to insure.

2011’s Top Money-Saving Hybrid Models

So far, 2011 has been THE year for the hybrid car, and promises to see even more forward-thinking, affordable models out later in the year. In support of the growing industry, a number of government incentives for both private and business customers were also introduced for electric and hybrid vehicles in January this year, including Green Vehicle Discount, the Enhanced Capital Allowances scheme, zero-rating on road tax and exemption from the London Congestion Charge. Consumers will now have so much more choice, with the release of some really high quality and affordable models from some of the major global automotive manufacturers throughout 2011.

By buying into the hybrid car market, not only are you committing to going greener, but you’re also committing to saving money. The four models listed below are listed in order of carbon emissions – from lowest to highest – and will be the top five hybrid money-savers…

Renault Clio Eco-Champion: CO2: 90g/km

renault clio 480x320 2011’s Top Money Saving Hybrid Models

The new Clio is pretty sizeable, which is why this car’s achievements in the green rating and discount qualification areas are so commendable. The latest in Renault’s Eco2 range (which includes the Megane, Twingo, Scenic and the Laguna), the Clio will, like the rest, use the manufacturer’s EDC (Efficient Dual Clutch) gearbox, together with a DCi 90PS diesel engine and particulate filter. Producing between just 90- and 120g CO2/km, this beauty will be will be awarded the stately title of ‘eco-champion’, and also qualifies for the full Green Vehicle Discount, exemption from the London Congestion Charge, and a zero-rating for road tax. Available this summer, the price of this sterling hybrid achievement is yet to be confirmed.

Lexus CT 200h Hybrid: CO2: 96g/km

lexus 480x320 2011’s Top Money Saving Hybrid Models

Starting at just £23,485, the CT 200h raised the bar when it entered the prestige small-family car market in February this year, with other like models having always tended to be a lot larger. Qualifying for zero-rated road tax and exemption from the London Congestion Charge, this car is among the best in its class. In addition to these exemptions, the CT 200h Hybrid has a company car BIK rate of only 10%, and qualifies for a 100% write-down in its first year according to the Enhanced Capital Allowances scheme – brilliant news for business customers wishing to purchase eco-friendly, affordable fleets.

Peugeot 3008 HYbrid4: CO2: 99g/km

peugeot 480x360 2011’s Top Money Saving Hybrid Models

Coming this summer in SUV, MPV and hatchback forms, this car starts at around £25,000 and is the world’s first ever diesel-electric hybrid. Producing an output of 163bhp, the 2.0 HDi diesel engine is aided by a 200bhp electric motor – both of which can operate either autonomously or simultaneously, with rear-wheel-drive-mode run by electric power, front-wheel-drive by diesel, or 4WD by both. Again, when you take into account this vehicle’s size and weight, its CO2 emissions of just 99g/km is impressively low. While it doesn’t qualify for the Plug-in Car Grant, it does for zero road tax, reduced fuel costs, and full discount from the London Congestion Charge.

Honda Jazz hybrid: CO2: 104 g/km

honda 480x360 2011’s Top Money Saving Hybrid Models

Available since February this year, this supermini Hybrid is an improvement on the existing Jazz model (by 21g/km, to be precise), to which the 1.3 petrol-electric IMA hybrid power-train was fitted – a current feature in Honda’s existing CR-Z and Insight hybrid models. Together, the 4-cyclinder engine and electric motor produce 87bhp power, enabling the car to reach 0-60mph in an incredible 12.1 seconds, and to reach a respectable maximum speed of 109mph. With fuel consumption of around 62mpg, the carbon emissions figure means that it just misses out on exemption from paying the London Congestion Charge by 4g/km… However, it does qualify for zero road tax in its first year, after which road tax will cost a mere £20 per year, so not all bad news on the discounts front.

After the initial outlay, these hybrids are a sure-fire way to save money by saving on your car’s running costs and reaping the benefits of government backing of the eco-car industry. With all the media attention directed towards the automotive industry and the changes in legislation, together with the rising costs of car insurance and petrol, big companies have been speaking out.

Price comparison site conducted a survey to discover whether rising fuel and insurance prices would sway its customers’ next car choice. An encouraging 48 per cent saying that they would opt for a more efficient car, with 11 per cent claiming that they would choose a model that costs less to insure.

As prices rise and times get tighter, Peter Harrison of car insurance has urged car owners not to put off searching for the best car insurance deals:

“With prices on the up the up it is more important than ever drivers ensure they are shopping around for the best deals on insurance – those who do will reap rewards and make their hard-earned cash go further.”

Similar research conducted by insurance company esure revealed that 71 per cent of their customers would consider going electric to help fight the green battle, with 81 per cent of motorists under 25 swaying toward a swap to the green car.

17 per cent surveyed said that they had considered changing their car to one that is more fuel-efficient, with a further 14 per cent saying they would consider changing their car if the cost of running a car continued to rise due to escalating insurance and fuel costs.

Pickard, head of risk and underwriting with the esure, echoed Harrison’s sentiment:

“If fuel prices continue to rise, we may see more drivers switching to electric cars because Britain’s motorists are definitely feeling the pinch when it comes to the costs associated with running a car.”

Fiat EcoDrive

EcoDrive, a system that allows motorists to understand how their driving affects consumption and pollution emissions, has been unveiled at the 2008 Paris Motor Show.

The way that this device functions is very simple, when the car is being driven ecoDrive gathers all the data concerning the vehicle and the driving style of the motorist. All the relevant information is subsequently collected through the USB hub of the Blu&Me device and transmitted onto a USB key, thereafter it is available to be viewed via a normal domestic computer.

Customers with a computer can therefore regularly check the fuel consumption and emissions from their journeys (ecoIndex) and receive driving tips on how to achieve a lower environmental impact. Read more

Toyota develops new fuel cell hybrid

Toyota has developed a new fuel cell hybrid vehicle that travels more than double the distance of its predecessor model, increasing the maximum cruising range from 205 miles to 515 miles. Limited cruising ranges of previous fuel cell systems presented obstacles to widespread fuel cell vehicle use but the ‘Toyota FCHV-adv’ (fuel cell hybrid vehicle-advanced) improves the cruising range with its newly designed high-performance Toyota FC Stack.

Fuel efficiency was improved by 25 per cent through improving fuel cell unit performance, enhancing the regenerative brake system and reducing energy consumed by the auxiliary system. Further changes include incorporating degradation control for the electrode catalyst and improving fuel cell durability. Read more

Worldwide Prius Sales Top 1 Million Mark

Worldwide cumulative sales of the Toyota Prius—the world’s first mass-produced gasoline/electric hybrid vehicle—have passed the 1 million mark, with approximately 1,028,000 units sold as of the end of April this year*1. Currently, Prius sales are robust in more than 40 countries and regions, particularly in Japan and North America.

Based on sales figures collected up to April 30, 2008, TMC believes that Prius vehicles worldwide have contributed to a reduction in CO2 emissions (considered a cause of global warming) by producing approximately 4.5 million tons*2 less CO2 when compared with gasoline-powered vehicles in the same class and of similar size and driving performance. Read more

VW’s first lithium-ion hybrid coming in 2010?

Wolfsburg, 28 May 2008 – Agreement has been reached on a co-operation which sees Volkswagen joining forces with Sanyo, one of the world’s leading developers of rechargeable batteries, to work on new and extremely efficient high-performance storage systems based on lithium-ion technology.

“Our focus in future,” says Prof Martin Winterkorn, CEO of the Volkswagen Group, “will be directed more strongly at making electrically powered automobiles alongside ones driven by more efficient combustion engines. Drivetrain electrification is the way forward if we wish to secure mobility in tomorrow’s world. This will involve energy recovery. The whole idea will be to no avail, however, as long as we do not have powerful energy storage systems at our disposal and as long as vehicle operations are not in tune with customer demands. This cooperation is an important step for us,” Winterkorn adds. Read more

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