Green vehicles: which motorisation for which use?

Whether used or new, this type of vehicle is finally starting to find its audience thanks to the efforts made by car manufacturers to offer economical models that are easy to use and low in pollutants. Between electric, hybrid and alternative fuels, the options are as varied as driving behaviours. What are the different advantages and limitations?
Green vehicles: which motorisation for which use?

What are the different green engines?

The electric

The electric vehicle runs exclusively on electricity. It runs a motor(s) powered by a battery that’s rechargeable via a 220V household socket or at a quick-charge station. Its range easily exceeds over 160 kilometres. Although the environmental impact left by an electric car is not zero, these vehicles power themselves with electricity generated from renewable sources.

The hybrid

The hybrid vehicle combines a petrol engine with an electric motor, thus taking advantage of both engine types. The battery that powers an electric motor automatically recharges as the automobile moves using two different methods: it couples with the internal combustion engine alongside the transformation of kinetic energy recovered from the acceleration and braking phases. With an average of 135 grams of CO2 emissions per kilometre, the hybrid vehicle is greener than diesel and petrol vehicles.

The rechargeable hybrid

Also equipped with two engines (thermal and electric), the rechargeable hybrid vehicle has a battery that recharges via a power outlet. It offers more range than the single hybrid in all-electric mode and CO2 emissions of only 117 grams of CO2 emissions per kilometre in real-life conditions.

The bioethanol

An alternative to petrol, bioethanol is a fuel of agricultural origin made from organic waste. Low-polluting and economical, it nevertheless suffers from a scarcity of distribution at service stations. Vehicles equipped with bi-fuel can use E85 consisting of between 65% to 85% bio-ethanol, along with SP95 or SP98, which are less appealing ecologically but much more readily accessible.

The Gases: LPG and CNG

Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) is a fuel suitable for bi-fuel engines, which runs petrol and LPG together. Petrol motor vehicles can run this fuel type if fitted with an LPG conversion kit, making it more economical and less polluting than petrol or diesel automobiles. LPG Natural gas (NGV) is methane-based and similar to LPG with characteristics, but it emits lesser amounts of environmentally harmful particles. Methane-based natural gas for vehicles (CNG) is similar in property to LPG but with an even lower amount of emissions of harmful particles.

Note: pumps delivering CNG are relatively rare in the UK. However, it is possible to set up a personal filling station at your home.

Which motorisation to choose according to the use?

The advantages of the hybrid

Below 50 km/h, the hybrid vehicle does not consume any fuel. It is ideal exclusively for urban journeys at mostly low speeds and short distances. Since acceleration and braking phases help recharge the battery, a hybrid motor is a good engine for city traffic, with frequent stops and starts. It is also smooth and silent at low speeds, providing a certain comfort level that’s difficult to obtain in an urban environment.

Disadvantage: the 100%-electric mode is limited to about ten kilometres. On motorways, the weight of having two engines types leads to over-consumption.

The advantages of the rechargeable hybrid

Thanks to its sizeable petrol engine, the Plug-In Hybrid allows you to drive on stretches of the motorway on your daily journeys without fear of battery failure. As soon as the battery drains, the combustion engine takes over without the driver noticing. It is a vehicle model adapted for return journeys between home and work, which combines the comfort of city driving with the acceleration performance in the fast lane. What’s more, the rechargeable hybrid makes it possible to travel in areas reserved for electric cars without losing the thrill of driving a conventional benzine engine.

Disadvantage: if the internal combustion engine runs regularly, the high vehicle weight leads to over-consumption compared to a diesel vehicle. Plug-in hybrids are not suited for large drivers or long distances.

The advantages of electric

Electric vehicles have the great advantage of offering the choice of the electric production source. They can drastically reduce carbon impact if drivers select electricity from renewable sources. Economical, silent and requiring little maintenance, the electric vehicle is an urban model on par with excellence. Its significantly improved range offers sufficient flexibility for most uses.

Disadvantage: despite everything, the battery still needs to be recharged after a few hundred kilometres. This operation can take time, from 30 minutes on public terminals to several hours on a domestic network.

The advantages of bioethanol, LPG and CNG

These fuels, which are significantly greener than diesel and petrol, are a good compromise for drivers who drive long distances and also seek to reduce their environmental impact. The possibility of installing conversion kits on certain vehicles also facilitates the transition to these fuels.

Disadvantage: it is sometimes difficult to find a suitable pump, especially for vehicles running on CNG. This disadvantage is countered for bioethanol by the possibility of using petrol, but the ecological advantage then becomes meaningless.

While none of the various green engines yet serve as a perfect solution, car manufacturers are still producing more options, allowing all driver types to find a green vehicle that best suits their needs.