Salvage Wire

Salvage Wire
Helping Automotive recyclers become leaders in their industry

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Plug-In Hybrid Experience

Teaching and training vehicle recyclers how to safely handle and dismantle high voltage vehicles is one thing, but how different is every day driving when you run one of these vehicles, how does it change your driving style and journey planning? I have just reached two and a half years of ownership of a plug-in hybrid vehicle.

Let me answer the major question first - would I purchase another plug-in hybrid vehicle? Yes, absolutely I would.
It is a major regret that we do not have access to the second generation Chevrolet Volt in the UK, if we did, then I would be very near the front of the queue. In the meantime I need to experience some of the newest vehicles over a normal working week to decide which one
will replace my Vauxhall Ampera, and love the look of the new Jaguar I-Pace and the Audi E-Tron, and if these fit my normal use then I will choose one of them!

For years I just jumped into my car and drove to where I wanted to go, done what I wanted and then drove back home, stopping as needed to put petrol or diesel into the tank and food and drink into the driver and passengers, but the last two years of driving a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) has changed everything!
One of these vehicles changes how you drive, makes you plan your journey, and alters where you go, and as sales of alternative fuelled vehicle in the UK increased by 34% during 2017 more owners and drivers are having to change how they use their vehicles.

Major benefits of Plug-In Hybrids include:
  • Ability to drive short distances on electric power alone, saving a lot of money on the daily commute, shopping trips and children’s taxi rides.
  • Pre-heating the cabin whilst plugged into the mains clears windows of ice on cold mornings, reducing risk, and cold hands
  • Performance from a standing start is awesome because the electric motors produce instant torque, which means immediate acceleration.
Some of the disadvantages of Plug-In Hybrids are:
  • Very high risk of running pedestrians over, especially in car parks, as they do not hear the vehicle
  • Not always suitable for high mileage users
  • in some vehicles the batteries reduce the amount of luggage space
  • Regular battery charging is needed to get best fuel mileage
  • Very limited access to qualified technicians who can service or repair the vehicles 
  • Extremely limited understanding of the risks posed by these vehicles once they reach end of life and are dismantled for parts
My car is a Vauxhall Ampera, the UK version of the Chevrolet Volt. It is a ‘range extender’ vehicle, which means that the vehicle is driven by the electric motors and once the battery has lost power an internal combustion engine then drives a generator that provides power to the vehicle.
As it is an older design it doesn’t have some of the sophisticated systems on much newer vehicles, so it does lack a rapid charging facility which rules out some of the high powered chargers in motorway service stations and some shopping centre car parks.
Unfortunately, GM Europe decided not to import the second generation Volt to Europe so we will not see the advances that GM built into the vehicle.
I love my car, the performance, how it drives, and also how rare the vehicle is - there are only 1265 currently in use on UK roads ( which means that it is far rarer than a Ferrari!

It changes how I drive - outstanding performance aside, I am constantly looking ahead and watching what other drivers are doing. The Ampera, in a similar manner to almost all other hybrid and full electric vehicles has regenerative braking. This means that it could be almost a ‘single pedal’ vehicle. Regenerative braking is where the electric motor becomes a generator and whilst slowing the vehicle down puts charge back into the vehicle batteries, so I can manage the speed of the car by using the accelerator and ‘regen’ braking and rarely touch the brake pedal. 
So far, I have covered over 80,000 miles and am still on the original brake pads; tyre wear is much decreased and my whole driving style is very smooth. There is one disadvantage however - the rear brakes get used very lightly, and it looks like I will have to replace the rear pads and discs before the fronts purely because they are corroding due to lack of use!

It changes how I plan my journeys - whenever I attend meetings I always ask if there is a plug in charging point at the meeting location, if not, I look on-line to find out if there is a charging point nearby that I can use (the Zap Map app is very useful). Whilst the car is stationary it is not doing anything - if I can use the time to re-charge the car then this gives me an advantage!

It changes where I go, having charge points at hotels is essential and I have been known to change hotel bookings because of the lack of a charge point! Again, this is one of the places where the vehicle stands still so it makes sense to charge it!

At home I have a charge point fitted by Polar, this plugs directly into the car and charges overnight.  My electricity supplier also fitted a ‘dual’ meter, so I can charge the vehicle overnight on a rate that is less than 50% of the normal day rate, which means a full charge that gives between 32 and 45 miles of range (weather and season dependent) costs around £1.

My experience with the vehicle recycling community is that they are unprepared for these vehicles and the risks that they carry. Vehicle recyclers can book me to train their staff on the safe handling of electric and hybrid vehicles, and we can also design a bespoke ‘best practice’ document for their business that details all actions required to safely handle these vehicles from initial request to collect right through to dismantling and disposal.

For more details on this and all other services for the vehicle recycling community please take a look at our web site -

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