Four Second-hand Hybrids to Avoid

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Sep 252012

And one to keep an eye on

The Toyota Prius is by far the most popular eco car, and one of the best on the market. When looking at second-hand green cars this is the one to keep your eye open for but, since the rise in popularity of eco cars, there have been plenty of others showing up throughout the country.

Toyota Prius - Plug In Hybrid Eco Car

Toyota Prius – Plug In Hybrid Eco Car

Just because a car is labelled as a hybrid, does not particularly mean it is a good car or is fuel-efficient. If this is important got you, here are four second-hand hybrids on the market to steer clear from, or at least think twice about before heading to the bank.

2010-2011 BMW ActiveHybrid X6

It has the BMW name and looks like a regular BMW X6, but this now-discontinued car used a tailored two-mode hybrid system that was designed for a large truck, together with a custom 4.4-litre twin turbo V8 engine that resulted in an output of 407hp. Although the efficiency was better than BMW’s conventional X6, it still used 19mpg of fuel.

BMW ActivE - Electric Car

BMW ActivE – Electric Car

The idea behind BMW’s green car was to design a vehicle that would mimic a seven-speed transmission using four gears and three electric assists. This way the car would feel like a regular BMW when behind the wheel. The problem with this green car was that the two-mode hybrid system ended up costing more than $10,000 per vehicle. Now that this car is discontinued, it is very pricey to fix as parts are unavailable, which is something to consider before purchasing.

2008-2009 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid

GM launched this green car a few years ago using a mid-hybrid Belt-Alternator-Starter system. It was only offered for two years and was paired with a 164hp 2.4-litre Ecotec four-cylinder engine. The problem was that its EPA ratings were only marginally better than a regular six-speed automatic transmission Malibu, which cost $2,000 less than the Hybrid.

The Malibu Hybrid does not offer drivers a smooth ride due to the rotation of the electric motor switching over to regenerate the battery charging. When GM declared bankruptcy in 2009, the Malibu Hybrid disappeared.

2009 Dodge Durango Hybrid / 2009 Chrysler Aspen Hybrid

A Hybrid SUV sounded like a fantastic idea, but it only took Chrysler a few months to realise that this was not the case. After making less than 1,000 Dodge Durango Hybrids and Chrysler Aspen Hybrids, production of this eco car ceased.

Since then, these hybrids are the only green cars Chrysler has manufactured using the two-mode hybrid system that it developed with BMW. Like the BMW ActiveHybrid X6, that system is extremely expensive, not only to manufacture, but also to repair.

2005-2007 Honda Accord Hybrid

This was the only time Honda used its Integrated Motor Assist mild-hybrid system with a 3.0-litre V-6 engine, and it was quite confusing to consumers who saw eco cars as fuel-efficient. Due to its unpopularity, this green car was only made for three years, selling a total of only 28,500 units.

Honda Accord Hybrid Eco Car

Honda Accord Hybrid Eco Car

The Accord Hybrid was 20 per cent better on petrol than the conventional Accord, but it did not only drive by using electric.  Luckily Honda  made other hybrid cars that are high-mileage compacts, but the Accord Hybrid fell short.

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Hybrid buyers don’t return

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Apr 192012

Hybrid Re-Purchase Rate

You would think that hybrid buyers would be a loyal breed. Making the jump to a hybrid is one that many car buyers still haven’t made, but those that do have been considered ideologically aligned with the idea of going greener. But a study by the US marketing agency Polk has found that only 35 per cent of hybrid owners decided to repurchase another hybrid last year.

Toyota Prius - Plug in Hybrid

Toyota Prius - Plug in Hybrid

Fuel Efficient Diesel or Petrol

The numbers showed that the repurchase rate on hybrids last year was below that in 2010, and that many hybrid buyers had instead switched to fuel efficient diesel and petrol vehicles. Last year, only 35 per cent of hybrid vehicle buyers bought again, compared to just fewer than 40 per cent in 2010 and a bit less than 37 per cent in 2009.

Hybrid take up dropped

In terms of hybrid take-up, there was also another worrying figure. While hybrid car sales accounted for 2.9 per cent of the overall vehicle market in the US in 2008, that figure had dropped to 2.4 per cent last year. The expectation among most car market trend-watchers was that hybrid take up would increase and that these vehicles would gradually build market share. So why is this not happening?

Low C02 Emissions is the Key

The main reason seems to be price. If the main market for hybrid vehicles lies with people that want to help reduce emissions, by the same token, these are also people that generally justify the purchase of a hybrid for other reasons, namely lower running costs. The theory of hybrids dictates that the buyer is prepared to pay more to purchase the vehicle and spend less running it. The problem with this, however, is that many car manufacturers are now producing fuel-efficient diesels that emit only a fraction of the CO2 that petrol vehicles were producing not so long ago.

Diesel and Petrol Price Compete

These are vehicles that are not only cheap to run, they are also cheap to buy. In other words, they are directly competing with hybrid vehicles. This has been shown again in the US, where the proportion of diesel vehicles on the road is steadily increasing ashybridtake-up gently stagnates and declines.

Toyota Buyers Differ

But that isn’t true of all hybrid vehicles on the market. The ever-popular Toyota Prius, for example, was shown to have a high repurchase rate in the recent Polk study. Last year research showed that some 41 per cent of buyers of the Japanese-produced hybrid decided to repurchase the vehicle or another hybrid on the market.

Manufacturers Strive to run cars on less fuel

What can we learn from this in terms of making our cars greener? Well, the reason hybrids are not doing that well is actually good news in terms of C02 reduction. After all, it means that other fuel-efficient cars are competing and, overall, that automakers are striving to run cars off less fuel.

New Toyota Prius+ Hybrid - 7 Seat MPV

New Toyota Prius+ Hybrid - 7 Seat MPV

Green and Saving Money on Fuel

This is due in no small part to the correlation between saving money and saving fuel. If hybrids are to compete, they really need to come down in cost, and that will surely continue to happen. Hybrids losing ground shows that competition to make cars greener is healthier than it’s ever been, which shows these cars have at least had a dramatic impact on the car industry.

London car hire firm goes greener

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Jan 292012

First Electric Hire Cars

The car hire firm that claims to be the greenest in London, Green Tomato Cars, has announced it will introduce its first electric cars to its existing fleet of hybrids and bio-fuelled vehicles. This move will make the agency the first private car hire firm in the English capital to offer electric vehicles.

Renault Fluence ZE

Green Tomato Cars is set to introduce two Renault Fluence ZE vehicles to its fleet, a car that is not set to be unveiled in the UK until the autumn. This electric car has already been launched in Israel and France, and plans to hit further markets later this year.

Renault Fluence ZE - Electric Hire Car

Renault Fluence ZE - Electric Hire Car

Renault has slowly released details about its forthcoming all-electric vehicle since it first announced the Fluence ZE at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2009. It is fitted with a 22 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery with a range of 99 miles on one standard charge and a top speed of 84 miles per hour. Compared to your average electric vehicle, Renault’s new offering is bulkier and more like a standard sedan, but with sleek edges and a sporty feel.

Although Renault’s new battery production facility near Paris has been delayed, roll out of the Fluence ZE has remained on track. Until the plant is completed in 2014 or 2015, the French automaker will purchase batteries from a joint venture between Japanese firms Nissan and NEC, and from LG Chem of South Korea.

Renault plan to maximise battery use

In terms of how Renault plans to maximise battery use, it has some innovative ideas. Aside from the standard home charge, which takes between 6 and 8 hours, and fast-charging stations which take just 30 minutes, it will also enable a battery swap program. Dubbed ‘QuickDrop’, this program allows a driver to exchange a depleted battery for a fully charged one at a dedicated facility. This will make refueling as fast as putting diesel or petrol into a tank at a petrol station. These dedicated facilities still have to be set up, just like recharging stations, but it’s an innovative idea that again helps to reduce the time needed to get an electric vehicle rolling once the battery is dead.

Leader of Eco cars

Green Tomato Cars, a company that has marketed itself as a leader in delivering eco cars for hire in London, is making a giant leap towards greener motoring. The firm already has a fleet of 200 hybrid and bio-fuel cars, including a number of Toyota Prius. The company says it offsets its emissions by planting trees and engaging in other energy-saving practices, including buying office equipment from environmentally-friendly sources, in a bid to become the first truly green car hire company in the UK.

Toyota Prius - Plug in Hybrid Eco Car

Toyota Prius - Plug in Hybrid Eco Car

In terms of price, Green Tomato Cars claims to offer its vehicles at the market rate, or lower in some cases. Many car hire companies have been reluctant to offer hybrid vehicles and other green cars because of the cost. Put simply, buyers of green vehicles usually pay more upfront but hope to reduce running costs because fuel efficiency is much greater compared to diesel and petrol vehicles. But because car hire companies usually leave fuel costs to the customer, this advantage is lost, except in terms of car tax, which is lower. But with the Fluence ZE, Green Tomato Cars is taking its business model another step forward.