Honest John: which is best, pure electric or one of the many types of hybrid?

Our consumer champion advises on the best kind of 'electrified' car depending on your needs

BMW Mini electric car being charged
Charging ahead: but should it be a pure electric car, a plug-in hybrid or even a self-charging hybrid that doesn't require plugging in? Credit: Michael Dalder/Reuters

If your car has developed a fault, or for consumer advice, turn to Honest John by emailing [email protected]

Astra la visitor

I want to buy a new car later this year but I am confused about the new technology available. There seem to be hybrids, light hybrids, plug-in hybrids and pure electric. We do lots of short journeys, quite frequent round trips of about 80 miles and occasional, but regular, journeys of 200 miles or more each way. What would be the most suitable type of car for our use? PG

Mild hybrids have 12v or 48v electric motors to regenerate otherwise wasted energy and assist a petrol engine. They work quite well. Self-charging hybrids have bigger batteries and electric motor generators to do the same thing more effectively. I've seen 55mpg from a big Toyota Camry hybrid, 63mpg from a Toyota Auris hybrid and nearly 80mpg from a Toyota Yaris hybrid (the latter driven very carefully). The next stage is a Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) that can run for up to 20-30 miles on electricity stored from plugging in to the mains, after which it reverts to running as a self-charging hybrid. Cars that are solely electric (EVs) tend to have ranges of between 80 and 300 miles, depending on the size of the (very expensive) battery. If you want to follow government guidelines, you could go electric but you would need to recharge any electric car costing less than £30,000 before you reach the end of your 200-mile journeys. At the current time, for the sort of use that you describe I'd go for a plain self-charging hybrid such as a Toyota C-HR or a Kia Niro.

Unfair isle

The turbocharger of my 2017 Peugeot Bipper van blew at only 896 miles and was replaced. The second turbo failed at 4,666 miles and this is where my problem begins. I live in the Shetland Islands, we do not have a Peugeot dealership so the vehicle had to go to Aberdeen for repair the first time. The Aberdeen dealer closed and the nearest is now Peterhead. Peugeot Customer Care stated it would reimburse me the expenses to get the vehicle there. Now Peugeot is refusing the warranty claim because the oil used in its services is not detailed on the invoices. I have now been without the use of the vehicle for two months. What can I do? GF

The two turbo failures should not have happened. Your Bipper has a 1,248cc Fiat Multijet diesel engine that is not known for turbo failure, but does require a specific Selenia oil. The only reason I can think of for failures at such low mileage is restricted oil supply to the turbo bearing, possibly because the bearing oil feed and return pipes became blocked with carbon. If both of these oil pipes were not replaced at the same time as the first turbo, that would explain the extremely short life of the second.

Plough man’s launch

Is it worth pursuing a claim for whiplash after spinal damage? Credit: Clara Molden

A car ploughed into the back of mine at about 45-50mph, while I was stationary, pushing me into the car in  front. The driver who hit me admitted liability at the scene. My doctor told me I have a form of whiplash, to take Ibuprofen for up to eight weeks and that I should be fine. I have fully comprehensive insurance, but no legal cover. My insurer can put me in touch with its solicitors. I visit an osteopath once a month to help my back. Is it worth pursuing this matter further for compensation? MJ

If you get a genuine GP or osteopath opinion that you have suffered injury on top of a pre-existing medical condition then, if your insurer will not help, you could go to a personal injury lawyer and seek compensation. However, the injury would need to prevent you from doing something you do regularly, such as your work or sport or some other activity. Obviously you cannot claim for a pre-existing condition or injury. You must be absolutely honest, or could be charged with attempted criminal fraud.

Here, there & every wire

Home comforts: can you you use an existing electrical connection to charge a car?

Although I don’t plan to commit to an electric car until battery development makes such vehicles a more attractive proposition, would I be able to use the exterior power point I had installed a few years ago when I parked a caravan on my drive? Or would I need a special point that would charge an electric vehicle more quickly? JLM 

You would need a correct 7.2kW Type 1 wall charger. Your house wiring will need to be assessed for suitability and the wallbox will have to be professionally installed. Unless it comes as part of the package with a new electric car, the total job usually costs about £750. The Office of Low Emission Vehicles Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme (mercifully abbreviated to OLEV EVHS) grant towards the cost is £350, but you need to buy an electric car to qualify for it. If your house wiring or the street electricity supply is not suitable, the cost of installing a wall charger could escalate to £3,500-plus.

Learning the hard way

Treading carefully: is it best to fit specialist winter tyres, or all-season rubber?

At this time of year it is probably strange to ask questions about winter tyres, but here goes. Our new Audi A4 40 TFSI is fitted with 245/35 R19 Pirelli P Zero tyres. We have always fitted winter tyres to our previous cars but are wondering whether instead of changing the tyres in early April and late October we should consider using Michelin Cross Climates or similar, which could stay on the car all year round. What do you think? IM

I think you ordered your car on unsuitable wheels and tyres – the result will be sharp shocks fed through to the occupants due to a lack of rubber in the sidewall between the wheel rims and the tread. You can get high-performance cold weather tyres in a 35 profile, but not all-weather tyres (or at least none that will work well). Two choices: get yourself a set of more sensible 16- or 17-inch wheels, for which you can get all-weather tyres, and sell your 19s on eBay (you have to disclose this to your insurer). Or get a set of 16- or 17-inch wheels and fit full cold-weather tyres to them, then save your 19-inch P Zeros for the summer. At least P Zeros have a ridge around their sidewalls to help protect the rims from kerbing damage.

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